When told about it Hema chuckles in her inimitable self-effacing way. "My God, news travels faster than our trains. I should've guessed. Some photographers saw me on the train this morning. Yes, I did travel by train from Pandharpur. I was accompanied by my cousin Prabha. I had gone there for a function, also visited some temples. The journey back required me to fly from Pandharpur to Pune then to Mumbai. Or we could've come back by car."
Hema preferred the direct night train. "The flight and the car options were too tedious and time-consuming. I had loads of appointments in Mumbai on Friday morning and I couldn't afford the delay. So I told the organizers to put me and my sister on the train from Pandharpur."
The journey would've been fun were it not for prying eyes. "The last time I traveled in a train was in March when I went from Delhi to Gwalior on Jyoti Scindia's invitation. I really enjoyed that. The train journey from Pandharpur was all right to begin with. My cousin and I were given an air-conditioned coupe. But the problem was the other passengers. I was comfortable traveling by the middleclass transportation. It's the other people who seemed uncomfortable."
To top her woes, the organizers in Pandharpur forgot to hand over her tickets to Hemaji before she boarded for Mumbai. "When my cousin and I reached Mumbai we realized we didn't have our tickets with us. We got to know this only when the ticket collector came to our coupe. But that was all right. He immediately contacted Pandharpur, got our ticket numbers, etc. This is where the advantage of who I am came into play," she ends with a chuckle.
And there ends the story of the Dream Queen's journey on a train. Rumours that railway minister Laloo Yadav, a self-proclaimed Hema fan, is about to rename the Pandharpur-Mumbai train as The Hema Malini Express, are unfounded.