Sunday, 6 July 2014

the train post.

The trains. Oh the trains.

I feel about train travel in India the same way I feel about going into a fancy cheese shop at home. The thought of both experiences inspires happiness tinged with apprehension, for very different reasons. I love cheese- and therefore cheese shops- but I do not love how light my wallet feels whenever I am going back through those doors with a bag of cheese in my hungry little hands. I love travelling by train in India- it is ever so much more comfortable than buses, and there are roaming snack men for goodness sake!- but I do not love the hassle that appears to be an inevitable part of train travel in India.

So both experiences are bittersweet. No, not bittersweet...happily frustrating.

We have now done a fair bit of train travel in this baffling country, and we have also travelled almost the entire spectrum of classes (except first class...prohibitively expensive as it is), so we have experienced a fair few different hassles. Like ticket men refusing to sell us tickets because we are tourists and that means having to hit a few extra buttons on their ticket machines and they have already hit so many buttons today, they really just don't feel like it; or being charged white man tax and paying two hundred percent too much for tickets that allow us to cram into a booth with sixteen other people; or being so unorganised we are only able to buy general class tickets and spending five hours sitting on a luggage rack with all of our bags and some other people's bags and a really old lady who I feel should have been at home with a blanket over her knees, not shoved on top of slatted metal 6 feet above the floor on an Indian train.

It's always an experience, I really am not complaining.

But last week, with mounds of luggage and my mum and an intense desire to be strolling the red clifftops of beachside Varkala (our much-anticipated destination), we had a whole new Indian train experience. We got to play 'Darjeeling Limited'.

Who has seen that film? Who remembers the part where every single time the three brothers got off the train for a smoke or some shopping or some bizarre convoluted spiritual ritual, they were always on the brink of missing it as it took off once again and had to run and run and run and jump?

That is what we had to do. And it was really fun(ny). And I love the feeling of running through a train station- you feel so...entitled. To step on feet accidently, or push past errant elbows in your look hopeful and desperate and important all at once.

So this is what happened...
There we were, sitting at the platform we were told to sit at and waiting waiting, very patiently (ok, I wasn't waiting patiently), for our train which was becoming more delayed with every passing moment. We played cards, we took selfies, we made faces at small staring Indian children. And after we almost boarded the wrong train because we were so sick of waiting and we were at the right platform and surely this is our train , it's been ages!, Mum and I went illuminate ourselves at the information booth. Where we found a crowd ten deep and an incredibly harried informer. Indian style, we elbowed our way to the front of the swarm, shoved our ticket at the man behind the desk and yelled "platform! Varkala!" to which he yelled "one! platform one! go go now! go!", his eyes wide with disbelief that we were not settled in our seats on our train that was apparently minutes from departing.

And so we ran. We ran back to Will on platform four (who was sitting on his bag knitting, the picture of serenity), garbled something like "train leaving now go quick leaving hurry!", grabbed our bags and tried to strap them up as we pushed and dragged and puffed our way back to platform one.

As we collapsed, red-faced and sweating, into the coach of some unimpressed looking Indian men, the train pulled out of the station.

Train travel in India. I love it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment