We finally made it to North India! Over 2000km later and three trains! Our plans kind of fell to crap for a bit but we got there in the end.
Our decision to leave Kollam for Hyderabad was a badly timed one, we arrived at the train station on the day and could only get an unreserved second class ticket, this is the lowest class (no third class at all!), what we didn’t know was there was thousands and thousands of Hindu pilgrims returning from a festival the day before, and guess which class of ticket they had! Luckily we got on at a slightly earlier stop, so after a lot of jostling we got a seat (wooden bench). After the next stop they flooded on, screaming and shouting and filled up the whole carriage, we had no room to move our legs, no fresh air, no toilet, and people all around us, we even had a gaggle of children above us sitting on the luggage racks. This was not good as we still had another 25 hours of the journey to go. At the next few stations yet more people desperately tried to bundle on, with police just pulling them back of the overcrowded train, it was quite a scene. The situation got a bit too much after nine hours of this and we eventually got off at some random city. We felt bad for abandoning the train, but the prospect of spending a night unable to move, with no sleep, and the real prospect of the kids above us weeing themselves (remember no toilet on board) and this then leaking onto us (we’d already had miscellaneous food items falling on our heads) was far too much.
As bad as the conditions were this was an important experience, and we were well looked after by our fellow passengers when it looked like riots were about to kick off, they also supplied us with vital food supplies.
We’d then travelled about 300km and we booked an onward ticket to Bangalore for the next morning, and checked into a hotel for a sound nights sleep. The next morning we travelled to Bangalore, which is India’s I.T. capital, but for us it was just a very noisy and dirty city, but still interesting to see the new emerging middle classes emerging from I.T.
The next day we boarded our third and last train bound for New Delhi train station, we got on sleeper class which means you have a shelf to sleep on which is reserved but other than that it’s similar to second class. This was the monster 45 hour journey which spanned to nights, and a good test of patience, as we a constant procession of people passed through the carriage begging, singing and selling crap. We finally arrived in New Delhi at 11am yesterday confronted by manic traffic, touts, dealers and hustlers. This is a city where we step down from being the polite people we are and ignore offers of this and that and calls of “Hello Friend!”.
Delhi is nice though, and today we visited a lovely old red fort and the Old Delhi centre which is steeped in medieval times and completely frenetic!
Tomorrow we catch an early train to Agra, to see the Taj Mahal, which we’re looking forward to.
India is a hell of a country, so many different facets, places and people. It has the ability to amaze, frustrate you and re-evaluate everything you know about Europe in one go. Also never have i smelt urine, flowers and cooking samosas at the same time. It is complete sensory overload for the eyes, ears and nose!
Despite all of this it still feels like “home”, i can’t explain why, but the term “Mother India” makes sense to me now, and i’m sure we will revisit this country again.