Dirt cheap but slower than grass grows
I am shaking like a Polaroid picture of Elvis and Big Joe Turner. But my feet are not stomping and my hands are not clapping. That’s right, I’m on a sleeper-train in India. My feet are dangling because these beds were obviously not made for people my size, or really made for people at all it seems. I don’t mean to whine and complain, but sleeping is not really an option with this much light and this little comfort. I would ask the people in the bunk below me to kindly switch off their light, but that much movement would probably cause me to sweat to a degree where my almost dry and definitely very salty shirt would get wet and sticky again. It’s 43°C (110°F) and even though we already spent 24 hours in this non-airconditioned “Grand-Trunk-Express”, 10 more hours still lie ahead. I just have to get thisoff my chest: the words “Grand” and “Express” have got to be meant in a sarcastic way.
This not so delightful night did eventually come to an end and the daily routines on our ride from Chennai to New Delhi began. People with seats began climbing over people without seats in order to go brush their teeth. Every five minutes or so, an employee of the Grand-Trunk-Express walks through our section and lets everyone know that he’s got water and Chicken Tandoori and the like to offer. He does so by yelling at a volume that might have actually exceeded that of the train itself. At nearly every single one of the many many stops, inofficial salespeople enter the train to sell their bananas and coco nuts, cucumbers etc. … however, these guys are constantly on the run from the train personnel. If paths of the official people in uniform and the inofficial salespeople cross … it may get a little louder. All we hope for is that the heavily armed police, who join the heated conversations from time to time, do not intervene with their equipment.
Thanks to our visitor from Rostock, Germany, we are luckily three people. And we’re triple trouble. We just do what any three random guys with a lot of time do: drink rum cola, smoke cigarettes on the toilet, and play skat.
Occasionally, daring men ask us where we’re from, young women sneak a peek at us every once in a while, and only the younger kids manage to have longer conversations with us. We order some popcorn from one of the inofficial people for us and some friends we made and as a thank you receive some cookies from our new friends. Our card tricks let kids eyes light up and our lack of language skills lead to great laughter and good times.
At last, we made it! Along with hundreds of pilgrims and other travelling kind, we finally disembark the Express in Agra. All we had to do is find cheap accommodation for the night and the following day we had already made plans to go visit the Taj Mahal for ten times the normal fee. But we’re foreigners, so that’s alright!