The train. I feel like I should say something about the train. 31 hours. Not an awful experience. Sleeper car was all that was available, departing Mumbai roundabout midnight. Not terribly hot, not terribly smelly, except when the piss smell wafted in, which wasn’t the norm but wasn’t an uncommon presence either. Windows open and a breeze the whole journey.
One thing to consider. If you’re on an open train with people who speak English and are curious about you, you might be careful about the book you select to read. I finished up the last 175 pages of David Cross’s I Drink for a Reason.
Two Nescafes, two curries, two packets of crisps (one coconut flavored), 11,000 people in my particular wagon. No doors, just a long passageway broken into segments of 8 bunks (2 high lengthwise by 2 sets of triple bunks width-wise). Me on a middle, initially comfy width-wise slab.
The trip was actually enjoyable for the first 16 hours, before it started to just be pesky and cramped. Eleven other people in the 7 berths around me, some older people sleeping on the floor, some kids actually sleeping on the connecting plates between cars, and people doubled up on narrow bunks. I had an awkward sleep contorted by my mini-backpack and camera bag snuggling with me but I felt guilty being uncomfortably hunched as my butt got bumped by my neighbors shifting about.
A loud cheers to my friend Randy for the bizarre and brilliant podcast I slid into after consuming my weekly mefloquine around Hour 24.
It’s amazing the continual volume level on the train. Relative quiet between about 3 and 6am but even then the shouting of “Chai! Chai! Chai!” whenever pulling through any of the 20+ stations. And begging, singing blind men, and begging, singing blind boys, and a non-singing man and boy pair each without use of their twisted legs. Sliding up the crowded corridor leaving a trail of sweat like a slug. These are always sad sights, but surprising how quickly you can get used to them.
Post-dawn arrival, auto-rickshaw to the edge of the Varanasi maze (which I’m convinced keeps changing as I walk it) and a hotel room later, here I am. Ready for a nap under a whirring ceiling fan 15 feet above me that is threatening to dice me like that propeller did to that thug in Raiders of the Lost Ark.