100 Days in India Project

Three ladies wearing colourful clothes walk past a wall in Udaipur, India.

46/ 100 Runaways in Agra Railway Station

After now spending much of our first morning in Agra sitting in a police office, drinking chai and chatting about life, the conversation turned to the numerous young people and children sat quietly behind us.

There were quite a mixture of boys and girls, none older than teenagers. Some sat alone whilst others were in pairs. They’d been sitting there completely silent the whole time we had been there and, whilst they weren’t apparently under any form of detention, they weren’t fleeing out of the large open door either.

The policeman told us they were all runaways, escaping from life at home and travelling on the trains in search of a better future. Because they were essentially children, he said, they shouldn’t be away from home. Although I don’t know why they are so keen to return these youngsters in particular, whilst ignoring the vast numbers of homeless children on the streets.

The chief policeman pointed to the eldest couple and explained that they were in love, but from different and incompatible backgrounds. They had apparently saved up some money, snuck out of their separate homes, and boarded a train together from somewhere in this vast country to try and make a better future for themselves. They were both arranged to be married to people chosen for them by their families and, understandably, they didn’t want that.

We asked what the policeman was going to do with them. He thought about this for a bit and then said that he hadn’t decided yet. He genuinely seemed to be a nice pragmatic man and it was reassuring to know that it was not necessarily the end of this particular love story.

The reason we were in the police station at all was to try and relocate the folder we had lost. Inside it were some photocopies of our passports, a bit of money in various currencies, a credit card and copies of all of our booking confirmations. Did we ever see it again? Not yet, however I am writing this a mere 6 years after reporting it, given the speed at which things seem to move in India, there is still a slim chance it may turn up.

Losing that folder wasn’t a big problem for us in reality, and it did lead us to have some really interesting experiences with the police. I expect that someone found it on the station platform in Varanasi, took the cash (half of which was United Arab Emirates Dirhams, so I’m not sure how useful that would be) and ditched the rest. The credit card was immediately cancelled and we had another with us anyway. The bookings were all saved as PDF files on Dropbox so I could print them again from anywhere in the world (my top travel tip for the day – see below) and we had access to plenty more money. Hopefully the cash made someone’s life a little easier that week.

[Note: Although this isn’t a blog that’s about recommending hotels and experiences I will say that we have used Dropbox cloud storage for years when traveling and found it very handy. You can store up to 2GB of documents for free and it links seamlessly with your phone and desktop computer. I save copes of all of our travel documents and tickets onto it and can access them anywhere with internet access. Even in India I could use it to show out train tickets to the conductor. As we travel around the world we make regular backups of our phone photographs to it as well.]