Taking the Train in India

20 Apr

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April 14, 2012

We had a relaxed start to the day, our only plans being to pick up our train tickets at Destination !ndia, purchase Aladdin pants at the market and pick up some food for our train trip later that afternoon to Varanasi. We kept with what had worked with us so far, splitting up into 2 groups of 3 and taking tuk tuks to Connaught Place. We grabbed a coffee before picking up our train tickets and venturing over to the market.

I bought pair #4 of sunglasses on this trip (note: fake RayBans are not durable but I haven’t given up on them) and She, Tal and I bought our Ali Baba aka Aladdin pants (we also bought a pair of drop-crotch Aladdin pants for J.J. upon his request – I can’t wait to be able to post a photo of that) and Tal bargained for a pair of earrings before we hailed 2 more tuk tuks to take us back to the Ivory Palace.

We set off in search of lunch close by and close to the grocery store (ie street stall with breakfast cereal and Lays chips in glass cupboards behind the counter) as we were running out of time before we had to leave for the train station. We ate quickly at a delicious vegetarian restaurant before saying our goodbyes to Tal and Jonny as we won’t see them for the next month until we meet again in Indonesia, and hailed 2 tuk tuks to take us to the train station.

When we arrived we walked in to find the floor covered with people laying out on their luggage, most of them barefoot, their feet covered in the city’s dust and dirt. We didn’t see our train’s number on the light up board so we wove through the sea of sleeping people to ask a security guard on the other side of the station. Next we went through ‘security’ where we had to put our bags through what looked like an airport security scanner while we walked through a metal detector. No one was watching a screen, if there even was one, of the bags moving through the security scanner and there certainly wasn’t anyone paying attention to anyone walking through the metal detector as it went off for every single person that went through and no one was stopped or scanned more thoroughly.

We began walking to the bridge that would take us to the furthest track where we were to take our train. Pete and J.J. walked ahead of Shelagh and I, me carrying my big backpack and my daypack and Shelagh carrying her small duffel bag (she had to throw out her backpack after 2 bouts with bedbugs) and J.J.’s plastic bag of bananas and yogurt that he’d bought for the train. As we were walking I noticed the plastic bag of food swinging wildly in Shelagh’s hand and then saw Shelagh whip the bag to the other side of the bridge of the train station. Only then did I see the monkey that had been the cause of the swinging bag of fruit and yogurt. The monkey emptied the bag, first opening the yogurt, making a face of disgust and throwing it aside before grabbing the bunch of 6 bananas and taking off up the fence and onto the bridge cover.

Shelagh and I were killing ourselves laughing but J.J. was less than impressed that we gave up his breakfast so easily. You don’t mess with J.J.’s food – I know this and now Shelagh knows this, but to be fair he should be explaining that to the thieving monkey instead of being upset with us for tossing away the bag to avoid getting rabies.

We walked down the steps from the bridge to the train platform where we experienced pure chaos. People pushing and shoving one another both to get to their car on the train as well as to get on the train itself. As we walked further and further along the platform the levels of chaos only got more intense. When we reached the end of the train we realized that our car was in fact at the complete opposite end of the platform and so back through the madness we went. Luckily the further we walked in this direction the less chaotic it became, likely due to the more expensive tickets we held to be in a less crowded car.

Once on board in our 4-person berth we were able to relax, Pete read Shantaram, J.J. read his book about Indian culture and Shelagh mostly mocked me for being a computer nerd as I tried to catch up on my blog entries (if only the internet here in India would allow me to upload photos to accompany the blogs…). I finally gave up on writing once J.J. and Pete joined Shelagh in giving me a hard time as they wanted to use the netbook to watch a movie.

We awkwardly moved about our cramped berth and set up our beds before settling in to watch Happy Thank You More Please before drifting in and out of a restless sleep amidst crying babies, a coughing woman, the smell of smoke and the hand from the bunk next to mine that continuously reached slightly in to our berth throughout the night.

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