So as my times in Jaipur came to an end, i wanted to move on to Varanasi, where my ticket to Goa is due to 17th of December. I heard great things about Varanasi, and decided that one week in one place would do me good.
Booking a ticket in India is special. There are forms to fill in for everything, and the cuing can turn into an endless mission (even if you end up in the right cue). Of course you can have the tourist office help you, but from previous experience its just not what i prefer to do…
There where no tickets to Varanasi available, so i ended up picking one to Agra, its about halfway there. And from there on i got a ticket to Varanasi, with a three day stay in Agra. The first morning of Agra my stomach was inside out, this kept on for two days and its only the last day of visit i actually could get out to have a look.
I kept to my room and had a lovely old man named Moin who drove me to the guesthouse, bought me medicine and kept me company. Its the sweetest guy I’ve met so far, and he barely wanted money for the medicine he bought.
So my train was due to leave the 8th, 17.00. Id booked a sleeper, meaning i get a bed. Its a 12 hour trip so this felt appropriate.
I arrive 16.45 to the station, just in time to check which seat i was assigned.
Looking at the digital boards i couldn’t find my train, which instantly had me worried.
I went into the office and asked. They started asking different people, looking at my booking paper, making phone calls and having mass discussions.Time was closing to 17.00 and i was getting a bit stressed.
The man behind the counter smacked the phone down and looked up at me. “Your train in 24 hours late sir”. Now i dont even know how a daily train can be 24 hours late, to me that’s cancelled, but who cares.
“So i come back 17.00 tomorrow, five’o’clock? In the evening”
“No sir in morning”
“I come tomorrow morning at five, so its 12 hours late?”
He just made his indian headshake at me. (Shaking the head in a way making it impossible to understand if its a “yes” or a “no”. Its simply a “maybe”.
I asked again. “Should i come tomorrow at five in the morning?”
I got a “yes” from him and thanked them, on which i went outside the station. I had a cigarette to make a new plan, and some feeling in me had me turn around and check the digital borders again.
There it was, my train number, departure 17.00. Shit.
I just burst into the station, running almost on top of people. Rushing to my platform. I heard people screaming “cigarette sir, cigarette” around me, and i couldn’t believe they where still trying to sell me stuff, at this moment!
Then i realized the “non smoking” train stations they have in India, and threw my cigarette to the ground, still running.
I came down to the platform, and there was no train, just another digital sign displaying my train number and: 17.00 / 03.00. There was nothing declaring whats what, so i asked a guy. He was glad to help.
“03.00 is the delay time, so you just add that to the current time and there you have it”. Great. So the train leaves at 20.00? I was puzzled, the next display showed another train, saying 18.45 / 18.55. As i doubt a train being 18.55 hours late, i asked again, saying “Are you sure this is not the new time, and my train actually leaves 03.00? “No no sir, delay time, delay time, amount of hours.” I really tried explaining to him what i meant, and we just went on and on. More people gathered, all had different theories and i was getting a but frustrated, which turned into total laughter. No one had any idea, we where six people looking at a sign, that they looked at many times in their lives, but obviously never understood. I left smiling.
My train was now (probably) one of the following:
- Missed due to the people at the office and my late arrival
- 24 hours late
- 12 hours late
- 10 hours late
- 3 hours late
From a far i could distinguish a sound, as if coming from a club, there was disco music, but it came closer.
Running down the street was a rickshaw (like a tuk tuk) with pumping music, full speed. As it was about to pass, I jumped out in the road signaling for it to stop, which it did about 20 meters after passing me. The sound turned silent, the lights went black, and walking over there i felt like a police stopping the poor driver for playing violent music.
Inside where two really young Indian dudes, one probably 18 years of age and the other one a few years younger, and they promised to take me to the train station.
I jumped into the back of it, and he started the machine for another go.
As we went off, the music came back, and WOW what a sound system. I had the speakers just behind my head. All the tiredness in me quickly blew away and the fresh winds of the road took its place.
The music in India so far has not gotten into me at all, its beautiful in many forms, but has not giving me that feeling that id like music to give.
This music, however, let me tell you, was fucking awesome. It was probably what i would normally consider to be crappy eurodisco dance music, but i guess the moment, the soundsystem, the situation i found myself in just made it the tune of my life. I could not keep my smile away, my head shaking, hands drumming and almost trying to sing with the vocals, which where in Indian standard manner with one woman singing high pitch and some dude responding. It was so cheesy, but so good. We where driving faster then I’ve ever been in one of these vehicles, and streets where empty so this was the time to do it.
The feeling i got from this whole experience brought up memories from my number one favorite movie growing up, “The neverending story”. A movie that brought me the first feelings of fear, curiosity and happiness from my childhood (that i can remember). There’s a scene where Bastian (main character) goes flying with his new found friend Falcor, the Dog-dragon. Its a scene that gives hope back into Bastian, and the soundtrack still talks to feelings deep inside of me, i was king of the world at this moment, and felt true love for the country for the first time.
I arrived to the station, handed some rupees to the driver, and quickly went inside, where i talked to an Indian guy. “Oh, that train is canceled sir…”
I smiled at him. “No its not, thank you”. I went on, and my train was standing on the platform, ready to bring me on 03.00, “on time”.
Inside, I quickly fell asleep, making sure i would wake up in good time for the arrival, 15:00.
From 10.00 and on i was awake, reading my book, and watching the landscape pass by. I love going by train.
Five hours later i started asking people when my stop is, and answers differed from “one stop away”, “three stops away”, “half an hour”, “one hour late”, to “three hours late”.
I just waited, and kept asking new people. I kept looking at my watch and was really thinking that the next station is the one, keeping my hopes up. I was starving from not eating for three days, and had no water left. I was running empty on everything, patience included.
Around five’o’clock i stumbled into one man, named Prabin. He asked me to have a seat with him, and we talked.
Prabin spoke really good English to me, and explained that trains are nothing to trust here (no shit), they rely on good weather, and now its foggy. Also, because we are late, we have to move the train aside from time to time, and stop, in order for other trains to pass (so they wont get off schedule). “we are the lucky train”, he said, and smiled to me. I smiled, but wasn’t really truly, i didn’t enjoy the situation, and checked my watch again, telling Prabin about my food situation.
Prabin offered me some crackers, which made my day, what a lifesaver! At the next stop he jumped off the train and quickly ran to get fresh water. YES!
He told me that there might be some more time before we arrive at my station, and it was in this instant i just had this great feeling of relief coming over me. Just let go, let go of the whole feeling of trying to figure out the train arrival, let go of the inpatience. Let go!
I gave up, there and then, all that is time on a train, all that is planning and all that is expectations.
I put my phone down, and engaged in my new friend.
He brought me over to another cabin, where three old women and one small girl where sharing it. They where so kind and did their best in speaking English with me. There was a sense of family feeling in there, and they gave me so much sweets and munchies i couldn’t handle any more, i had to take a rest.
I rested for another half an hour, read some more, spoke some more with my new friends, and some other people in the train, I knew Prabin would make notice of my stop.
Hours went by, but this time without any impatience from my side. We just kept stopping and stopping to let other trains pass. I had one driver calling me now and then, he was waiting for me at my station (a friend of Moin) and had been waiting since 15.00. We laughed every time he called. “I think i’m there in an hour”, “I think its gonna take one more hour”, and his last calls i just said “Man, i really don’t know if we are ever gonna come there”, and id stopped caring really.
We arrived 23.00 pm, with a delay of 8 hours (on top of the previous 10 hours), and i went of the train, more chill than ever, more in tune with the Indian vibe than id never been.
My driver literally came running. “Are you KEB?”. “Well, i’m Kenny, but take it…” and before i had time to tell the man “Shanti” he took my arm, threw me in the back of a Rickshaw and drove me trough another insanely speeded drive trough Varanasi.