A Train Ride in India

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February 2nd 2009
Published: February 7th 2009
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I decided to take all of my train ride experiences in India and compile them into one big "experience." Taking the train here is the major mode of transportation from one city to another in India, and anyone who comes here will be sure to take one. If nothing else, it makes for some interesting stories and a certain amount of calm on one's vacation.

My train ride would prove itself to be a normal Indian train ride. They'll tell you it's on time (early, even, once) and at the last minute they'll tell you it's running late. This will happen at least 2 times. Then they'll change the platform on you, maybe. But you've already spent the last 30 minutes paranoid you've missed your train and have been assuring each other that you really haven't because each station does things differently. And this will all happen at a station where the electronic boards aren't working and you have to listen over the loud hum of the crowd to the garbled loudspeaker that blares every 2 minutes. In Hindi and English.
If you are lucky, you may be able to find someone who will actually be able to help you. But don't hold your breath.

There are all sorts of people on the train:
There's the loud child who screams about everything.
There's the group of 2-4 who take over the entire area with their stuff, leaving you nowhere to put yours, relax, much less sit comfortably. Depending on the time of day, there are those who still dominate their beds, giving people nowhere to sit, as the beds have cut off all head room.
There's the overweight lady who takes up all of a bench as she stretches out her legs, all day, while other people bring her food and sweets, which she will gleefully pop into her mouth with great, zealous pleasure. Which will then be chewed as overtly as possible.
Then there's the guy in lime green who speaks no English but is probalby the nicest person you'll meet on the train. He's the only man who smiled at me on the train. And he's only the second to actually interact with me like I was a human being, rather than a woman counterpart in a group of men. He's friendly, laughs at the same silly things, and actually interacts. He's polite, quiet, neat. Laughs to himself since we can't talk to us and everyone else pretty much ignored him unless they were asking him to move. I think we both felt isolated.
There are 2 couples you think are friends but aren't. They talk to each other, but since it's in Hindi and you can't understand it, it just seems friendly. One couple is not friendly, and goes so far as to hang their (clean) underwear up on the itty-bitty rack that is supposed to be shared by the people in the top bunks who have been left no floor space. The other couple is friendly, offers you cookies in the AM and scolds you for not taking more than one.
There's the creepy guy who just stares at you, talks about you in a Hindi but isnt' subtle. It's obvious that he doesn't think much of you and considers himself smarter, better, if for no other reason that I am a woman and he is a man. I doubt he finished high school. (I base that last bit off of the number of children I saw NOT in school during the weekdays.)

There are men who come through with cups and tea bags and a gigantic jug of hot water yelling, "chai, chai, chai!" Eventually, someone with chips and cookies comes through. And if it's a long ride, people from the pantry car will come through selling proper food.

As you look out the window you'll see a variety of things:
Green fields speckled with golden flax flowers give way to a barren desert without warning; country homes with no electricity or running water and women wearing brightly colored saris and children playing yield to small towns filled with chaos and a strange sense of daily order and routine.
I also saw people where I didn't expect to--seemingly in the middle of nowhere-- and wondered how they got there and why they were there. Some had goat or sheep, some just sat there. All just watched us as we rode through.


17th February 2009

Indian trains are really crazy, i went on a 28 hour journey last year, it was crazy and warm. Not to forgett the Chai people =)

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