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Published: August 29th 2015
Yes, this really occurs in India
Indian nationals on top of the train and pushing to get inside
I got to the train station about 3:30 in the afternoon. "Good," I thought to myself, "I now have an hour to wait until my train arrives at 4:25." I can’t wait to get out of here and into the mountains. I sat and waited amidst the beggar kids, ogling men and one old lady with a bad knee and a walking crutch. I nodded at her, got a nod of approval back and then came the inevitible barrage of questions or comments or something – all in a language I was sadly unable to comprehend. Finally, even early by a few minutes, my train arrived. I had no issues finding my seat and although my ticket was for the upper bunk (meaning the aisle seat on the lower bunk when one just wants to sit) I sat next to the window until I moved to my upper bunk around 8:45pm. Only one lady was sitting across from me. A youngish couple and one single man were also sitting in my section of seats, although the solo guy didn’t look at me often. It was actually an enjoyable journey, with the cool air blowing in my face and a good book
I didn't have a seat for the first couple hours
to read. The woman sitting across from me didn’t
stare at me either. I like this – what a nice change of pace to be treated not so much an object of curiosity and uniqueness, which gets really old really fast.
I “retired” up to my bunk about 8:45, settling in to good book. I read for a surprisingly long while, closing my book around 9:30, trying then to sleep. Although the light was on and people were still talking, that didn’t bother me in the least. I had my pillow but didn't bother pulling it out of the stuff sack. I woke at 10:30 and was surprised and elated to find it quiet and dark in the carriage. Ah, peaceful bliss. I fell right back to sleep until midnight when I was woken up by loud voices from the next compartment. Newbies, clearly, and evidently not caring that it is the middle of the night and the majority of the travelers in this carriage were probably sleeping, or trying to, at least.
I shifted, looked across from me and for the first time saw someone on the upper bunk across from me. It was a man, of
course, and he was staring right at me, almost through me. I turned away from him instantly, stretched out on my tummy, not giving him the satisfaction of being able to look at my face. I’m sure I was asleep when I felt something on the side of my left breast. I shook it off without getting up or looking up. Maybe it was a fly (although I wouldn’t have felt that), perhaps a cockroach, or maybe just my snap-up shirt fluttering in the slight breeze from the overhead fans? When I felt this "sensation" a second time, I shot up and faced my neighbor only to see his hand instantly and rapidly retract. He then feigned sleep, on his side, facing me but with his eyes closed. “What are you doing?” I demanded, twice, my voice not a “night time voice.” I got no reaction from him at all as he pretended to be deep in slumber. I rolled over on my left side with my rain jacket-covered butt now in his line of vision. I was glad to have worn the jacket. Jerk.
I managed to get back to sleep somehow and around 1am I felt something on my rain jacket-covered rear end. I was definitely awake this time and decided if I felt it again, to make sure I wasn’t dreaming it, I’d shoot up again just like the last time. Within moments, sure enough, it happened. God, I was angry. I was awake and took mere nanoseconds to catch the arm of this man retreating once again to his side and his eyes to close, simulating sleep once again. This time I yelled. I cursed, I cried out and I kicked his knee at least a half dozen times, because it was all I could reach when I stretched out my legs to the bed opposite me. I wanted to kick him in the crotch but I couldn’t reach; it just wasn’t feasible. Moments later, the lights snapped on and people started coming over to see what the racket was all about. I was yelling obscenities at this man who sat stony-faced, appearing as if he was completely innocent. Wrong, buddy, you are so far from innocent and you’re not
going to get away with this.
What ensued was a garble of Hindi language I didn’t understand - and that didn’t sound too cordial. It was thrown the way of this creep by the onlookers, all men, save for the three ladies in my compartment. “I want him outta here,” I yelled in English, and thankfully one guy who knew a few English words tried calming me down and telling me it would be all right. Before I knew what was happening, two armed men and one officially dressed, well-cut man appeared in my compartment and started exchanging words with this man. Nothing more was said to me. The officials slapped him on the back of his head hard enough so his head whipped forward. He seemed rather taken aback but maybe not at all surprised at this retribution. He was then led away and the growing crowd of at least a dozen (that I could see) not counting my six compartment-mates started to go back to their respective berths. It was all I could do to cool down and try and get a handle on my uncontrollable body shakes.
Before the crowd left, the ladies were yelling something fierce at the official, presumably something about this bad man, although naturally, I couldn’t understand a thing. They continued their loud charade even after the onlookers, clearly having lost interest in the early morning excitement, left. Sleep was not an option, not yet. All of a sudden, a large group of men ran past my compartment the direction this guy had been taken. The ladies kindly informed me this man was “given beat” at the other end of the carriage. Good. He deserves a good pummeling. Kick him in the nuts as far as I’m concerned and while you’re at it, throw him off the train, will you? I thought this to myself, of course, and never uttered a word to anyone regarding my unpleasant thoughts. The ladies surprised me by praising me for what I had done. What did I do? Kick him in the kneecaps? Wreak havoc? Wake everyone up on the train in the middle of the night? Call attention to what this guy did? Probably the latter.
The young guys from the next compartment assured me they were “right here if you need us,” which was thoughtful and kind as well as reassuring. They were truly on my side in this situation and completely against this man; “a very bad man,” as the one lady with a bit of English knowledge kept assuring me. I lay down for a bit but my eyes were wide open, taking in the past 20 minutes and what implications it might have conjured up. All of a sudden the crowd of guys were back and I was asked to come down to ground level so the perpetrator could kiss my feet and apologize. I complied with tradition and amidst all the onlookers, the “bad man” reappeared and was ordered to touch my feet and apologize to me. An armed man and a suited conductor were standing next to him, stony-faced and not in the least bit amused. He bent down but didn’t touch my feet before he stood upright again (I had never taken off my Keens). He was forced back down in front of a good 46-48 eyeballs to actually really touch them. He did, with both hands at the same time, one hand on one foot, said in English “I’m sorry,” and was then again led away, this time by the man with the big gun.
I was told the next morning by my two remaining female compartment-mates (a mother and her daughter) that the man had been removed from the train during the next stop after having been given more beat by the authorities. Good. By the time the hoopla had died down that night I wasn’t tired anymore, although it was close to 2am. I chose instead to read my book, safe and content with the understanding that no one was sleeping across from me on the opposite upper bunk. I read until 2:40 when, on a particular sentence, I vowed to be finished and close the book, but before I finished, the overhead light was turned off suddenly and the hint taken.
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