The other night I went to the Old Delhi Station to catch the train for Pushka. As luck would have it the only available seats were on the train that left at four thirty in the morning. Taking the forty minute taxi ride in the early hours of a new day whilst the city slept, was an experience and a half. Driving through the dust ridden pot holed roads with only the miserable vagabonds and wild dogs roaming the streets as our companions, can only be describe it as eerie. A multitude of old scruffy rickshaws abandoned for the night and hundreds of enormous trucks and sinister looking Lorries paved our way. It doesn’t happen often but when the taxi driver took a side turning I started to get scared! one thing is for sure, and that is that when one travels alone, well at least for me... all instincts of survival and protection come to the fore. Immediately I asked in an overly loud and agitated voice, where we were going and if he was going to the Old Delhi Station... (I mean well you would never know, if he was going to rob and rape me! And I didn’t want to get robbed!) To which the poor man replied "Yes mam ve go to zee statshone" it worked out he was just trying to avoid all the chaos and cut through a short cut to my destination... I suspect he thought “I've got a right nutter here” and was most probably more afraid of me than I was of him!
On arrival at the station... I could not believe my eyeballs. There they were!!! hundreds of these bodies lying everywhere on the floor! I nearly freaked out because my first thought was that they were all dead! I mean excuse me, but where do you see a sight like than unless there has been a horrendous massacre? Taking a closer look and much to my relief I saw that they were very much alive, some sleeping, some were awake, some completely covered with blankets so much so, at first glance you would have thought they were heaps of nothing. And then there were the ones that were sitting staring into space or as usual at me... (Please Note: - "The staring at me" is the bit I can never get my head round when I am in India. In my later years, I have come to realize that I am slowly becoming invisible! Occasionally I do ask the dear Lord to make me little more visible from time to time. But please if he has anything to do with the scrutiny I get in this country. He really has gone overboard. Jesus! I didn’t mean THAT visible!) So much for that little notation, let’s get back to the crowds lining the grounds of the station. I confess that stupidly I thought they were all waiting to catch the train. It was only on reflection that I realized that a lot of them were misplaced people with nowhere to go. Which is a very sad but fact of many countries I have visited.
The Indian train is an experience. It is understood that if you are an intrepid, adventurous, and avid traveller, in other words, a stark stone raving mental lunatic. You should most certainly give the train a try... Are you getting my message loud and clear? And by the way, if you are a masochist then the state bus is even better!
I booked a first-class sleeper as Mr Google said that was the best, I always listen to Mr Google! why wouldn’t I? But now I do wonder if he has ever travelled on an Indian train?
India has 8 classes of accommodation on their trains, although only some of these classes will be available on a train. There is also the storage compartment which is like an enormous box with slats very like something you would transport cattle in... There were more bodies in the storage compartment than there was baggage
I read somewhere that the first class A1 comes with carpet etc., Whoever wrote that has a great expanse of imagination, as I can assure you that there wasn’t any such thing in my compartment! Basic but I must say that I could live with it and at least I wasn’t in the cattle carriage... I shared the compartment with three Indian gentlemen and luckily, they were exactly that! “Perfect gentlemen” One of them was from Jaipur but lives in New York, he was very interesting and gave me lots of tips for places to visit in India. He also filled me in a lot of the customs and daily life of his fellow men. All three of my travel friends left the train at Jaipur and I had the compartment to myself, or so I thought!!!!
While writing this on the train and I could have sworn I saw something dash across the floor. uuum not sure if it was an enormous cockroach or a mouse or what. Unbelievable there I was in first class and my space was being invaded!
On arrival at Ajmer the nearest station to Pushka I was just about to struggle up the enormous flight of stairs with my backpack when this drop dead gorgeous man asked if he could help me! But of course, he could! I would have needed to be out of my mind to have said NO!! It's not everyday Backpacker Granny gets such a wonderful offer. How sad he was only going to take my suitcase for me and not Me as well... He was from Turkey and he told me his name was “Avi” a name I will never forget as that is the name for Grandfather in Catalan! And I really loved my children’s Grandfather. This charming man took control of everything and sorted the rickshaw to take us to the bus station and then arranged everything to get us on the most crowded bus I have ever seen in my whole life... Thanks to this amazing person I arrived in Pushka safe and sound and then to top it all, he even accompanied me practically to my guest house... Once it was established exactly where my lodgings were, he stopped and said “You are OK now so I can leave you” with that he turned and disappeared into the crowds of people. I couldn't help feeling that I would never see him again. (Dam it)
Funnily enough, when I am on my travels there is always a guardian angel waiting to help me wherever I go. Are they real or have they just popped down from heaven to make sure I am all right? Who knows! but it’s comforting to think that someone up there is looking out for me.
More stories to come on my journeys through Incredible India.