Travel Journal Overview: I was used to India now. It didn’t bother me. In fact it never had, it was always about the tourists stories. But now I was leaving on the way to another country I had only heard about through other tourists. First though, another Indian Train trip.
It just before midnight when I arrived at Varanasi’s train station. It was a cold night, and the whole area was teeming with life. After a great train from Delhi I was hoping for a third time is the charm type of luck. It wasn’t to be.
First things first, all the signs were in Hindi. I had no idea where to go. OK so Varanasi train station is not that huge, but even single platform station can difficult if you could not even get in without stepping on a prone body. Just about every conceivable open floor space was taken up by a blanket wearing body, or family.
I headed out on to platform one, listening as I went to faint Hindi / English / garbled announcement over the low volume intercom. Nothing about Gorakphur. I need a chain for my backpack. The old one had gone missing, probably in my bag hidden away and weighing me down even more. Although possible it was still strapped to the Delhi train from last week.
The chain cost a rip off 50 Rupees, it should have been 20. I didn’t care, it also paid for the information I wanted. I was on the right platform for the 12.20am to Gorakphur. I thanked the store keeper and turned around. A tall well dressed Indian man was standing there. In India everyone listens to your conversations, and this guy was no exception.
“You are on the right platform,”he said with a slight head waggle.
I nodded and moved forward.
“But,” he continued on with a hint of a smirk, “you will not getting on at 12.20.”
What else could I do but stop and ask why.
His hair was heavily slicked back with some scented gel. “It is never 12.30.”
Great. He was one of those Indians who never gave a straight answer. I tried a head wobble. He smiled. It made be uneasy.
“Why not 12.30?” I said resigned to the conversation.
He took on an intellectual look. “I must have taken this train for the last ten years.” He paused, as if to make dramatic effect. Then looked at me with a smile. “If you are lucky it will arrive at 2am.”
So that was it. I nodded and looked around at the throng of people all waiting it seemed for the same train. “Look’s like after ten years you are still hoping for a rain not running on Indian time!”
He laughed. It was a lame joke, but need to break the ice. His questions were rudimentary over the next 30 minutes of waiting with him. But it was company considering the option of just standing there in the cold.
I looked over at a group of foreigners waiting further down the platform. Occasionally one or two would pass by. Never a hello, or a nod, or even a glance. Some were obviously looking for an information desk, or a sign. None bothered to ask the lone guy without a worried look on his face. These are the same people that would rather see you miss the train after being told there was an overbooking.
I missed solo border crossings. I had a feeling all these people were heading to Nepalese border. My mind avoided the thought of us all at the border check point. I perched myself on a stairwell, reluctant to sit down due to the betel nut juice splattered everywhere. Both old and freshly spat.
I took amusement at watching a conversation between 5 Indian men. 3 of whom held great jowl fulls of the addictive red juice. One in particular had to hold his head back while he talked to avoid overflow from his mouth. Every 5 minutes he would walk over to a wall and spit out a flurry of the red liquid before rejoining his conversation with his head at a less prone angle.
2.20am. An announcement, the train was arriving. I took full advantage at being on my feet and surge forward first as the train came in. I pushed myself heavily on board with some of the first only to find my upper berth occupied by a sleeping Indian. I prodded him and waved my ticked. He pointed to the lower berth beside me. It suited me better anyway.
I chained in my bag, and settled in quickly. I took some more antibiotics and nose spray for my head as the other tourists walked frantically up and down in search of their beds, only to find an Indian family had taken up residence in their place. I also watched as a fat Indian man lay down in the bunk opposite me, and began to snore loudly almost as soon as his belly stopped wobbling. His wife sat on the other side of the carriage and just stared at me. No sleep tonight then!
Some related links on this website that you might like: (including a lot more photographs from India)
Video: On the Ganges Ceremony