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Published: December 6th 2017
Day 3 (Monday 4th
December) Last Day in Delhi
So we had an early breakfast and packed all our bags as we had to check out at high noon and had a 2 hour walk pre-booked. I checked if we could leave our bags at the hotel as our train doesn’t leave until 7.45pm. The hotel was great and allowed us to leave our bags in a secure place for free.
After breakfast we grabbed a tuk-tuk to the Railway Reservation Office on the main road and lurked around until approached by a guy who showed us a small chai shop in a side street where a few others waited and we all had some chai.
Eventually the last couple turned up & we set off down the side street which was full of rubbish and rat holes. We saw a few rats too who seemed unbothered by our presence. Our guide explained the various ways that children become homeless; lost, beaten or driven out. Also the perils of prostitution, beatings and drugs (especially glue sniffing) that they are exposed to. He
also said that if they are located early then they really benefit from the work done by the charity; sent home if possible, or educated and able to survive in mainstream society (as happened to him). The charity is called the Salaam Baalak Trust which translates as the Trust who “Salutes the Child”, saluting the indomitable spirit of street children without distinction of gender, religion or caste. We were toldnot to give any money to street children as they only spend it on drugs or entertainment as there are many places nearby that provide free food like the Seihk Temple which serves over 12,000 meals a day.
We continued down back-alleys to the railway station and to the railway police office and climbed some steps to the 1st
floor where a few kids were playing the precursor to snooker, flicking large discs onto draught-sized pieces, hopefully into the corner holes on a square board (popular game over here). This was a safe place where kids could sleep although there was only a carpet to sleep on.
From there we went down more back alleys, some only
about 3’ wide (I was lucky to squeeze through). One very clean alley had special tiles along it with pictures of Hindu Gods and our guide explained that the locals got sick of the alley being used as a urinal, so placed the tiles and the problem stopped!
I wish that would work in the UK!
Eventually we arrived at Salaam Baalak HQ in another alley. We climbed the stairs to the 2nd
floor where a strong metal gate was guarded by a uniformed guard who let us in (there to keep bad folk out, rather then kids in). We went into the school room and met 4 boys who showed us an elaborate ritual handshake; touching small, 1st
fingers & thumbs, then swivelling on the thumb, ending with a traditional shake. Well I managed it!
We had a good chat although their English was not too good and they seemed like good lads (see photo). We went into another room to pay our walk fees (receipts given) and buy t-shirts, cards & diaries. They do seem a genuinely good charity inspired by
the film “Salaam Bombay” and with much research into what street kids need in order to stop the street life.
Then we wandered off, through the back alleys to the main drag again (meeting one lad from the HQ on the way, who I suceeded in doing the handshake with) and onwards, past our hotel to the Shelton (again) where we had lunch – no armed guards this time…
After a nice meal we went to find a taxi to take us to a park but we couldn’t find one big enough for us all and ended up at the Metro - where we planned to get a train to our station that night. We decided to check it out; there were lots of steps and it was very busy. We decided to return to Hotel Hari Piorko and order a cab! And this we did, getting a cab at 6pm for our 7:45 train. It was still rush hour and we arrived around 7:15, met by porters who loaded all our bags onto a large trolly and we all set off to our platform.
Of course our train was late. 2¼ hours late! We set off around 10pm, which is bed-time on trains (to avoid arguaments it’s set as 10pm – 6am). There was another couple sharing our space who didn’t speak much English but seemed OK. We were in 3 tier berths. This is where you get 2 bench seats facing each other and, in order to sleep, the seat backs hinge up and hangs by chains from the padded luggage shelf, which itself also becomes the top bunk. Hence 3 tier. Across the aisle were 2 seats facing each other which turned into 2 beds at night.
The Indian couple had the bottom 2 bunks in the 3 tier seats. So Mal went in the bottom bunk on the 2 tier side (with her metal knees), with Bill above (being the shortest adult). In the middle bunks were Esmee & me, leaving Rocco & Shirl the top bunks. I fell asleep very quickly and slept fitfully, mainly waking each time the train stopped.
Day 4 (Tuesday 5th
December) A Day On A Train
Quite early next morning we all got up, but the Indian lady didn’t as she had bad legs, apparently – but this was awkward as she took up 3 seats lying there! I was going to demand that she was thrown off at the next station, but relented as she was not well. She did not speak although her husband tried, not very successfully, to have a conversation. I did work out, with the help of maps, that they were getting off a few stops befor us. Chai arrived occassionally as did Indian breakfasts, water, fruit and nuts. I think I had an omelet & dry bread for breakfast.
The countryside and day rolled on. Lots of tall chimney stacks around the fields which I think were brick-kilns as piles of bricks were stacked beside them. The occassional tractor was seen in the small rice paddies,which seemed unnessesary as they were so small. Huge, long bridges spanned small rivers, which I assume became raging torrents come monsoon time. Once we saw a hill and got very excited! It was like East Anglia with rice rather than
Esmee got the usual attention from all passers-by, but one guy from the next compartment took what I thought was an unhealthy interset in her and we decided he should not hold her any more as he was quite strange with the strokings and hair examinations… He used to work in the steel works so we taked about that briefly.
Snacks were eaten. Lunch arrived in the form of a Thali, including a very watery dahl which I liberally splashed upon my jeans and t-shirt. I gleaned from the Indian guy that we should arrive at Gaya around 5pm rather than the expected 11am! Sadly this turned out to be true. Befor we arrived, our carriage guard (they have 1 per carriage here, whilst talking of none in Britain!) helped us get all our bags near the door and to unload them upon arrival. Mal gave him Rs200 and he was surprised and happy.
One porter grabbed the 2 heaviest bags (mine & Mals) and balanced them on his head, another took the other heavy bags. Then it
was up a long ramp across 4 platforms and down another ramp to outside the station where we were met by a host of the large tuk-tuks all wanting our business. We found one that had a good luggage rack on his roof and we loaded up (giving the porters Rs600). Mal was delayed as some guys asked her for a cigarette, as she was smoking, but she only had spliffs. They asked if they were English cigs and she explained they were Kashmiri… This made them happier to have one!
After a nightmare ride in the rush-hour dark, mainly uphill, we reached our hotel at 6pm. 24 hours after we left our hotel in Delhi. The journey from Manchester to Delhi with a 5 hour stop in Helsinki was quicker!
But at last we had arrived in Bodhgaya, and the staff here are great, very friendly. Me & Mal have fairly basic double rooms with en-suite, but the Reedies have a nice big room with extra bed, sofa and views (Me & Mal just get a wall outside). We are all on the top (3rd
floor, all in a row. There is a rooftop restaurant and we had some dinner watching the orange full moon rising above the main temple which is only ½ mile away. There is a Bangladesh Buddhist Temple to one side and a Butanese one behind us. After the Reedies had gone to bed I stayed a while with Mal on the roof then went to my room to complete the last published blog.
I’m gonna publish this one now! Still a day behind, but catching up… hard to find the time!
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