Trip Start May 31, 2008
107Trip End Jun 01, 2009
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Sometimes in India, in fact most times, it is the journey and not the destination that leaves you with the greatest impressions of the country. And although the journey can be uncomfortable and assaulting to all your senses, there seems to be no other way to travel across this vast landscape and still get an authentic feel for the fabric that weaves it all together.
One of the most memorable trips was our train ride from Bangalore to Mysore. We took the train late afternoon and I was glad that we opted for the luxurious travel option over the bumpy buses. The 22 INR cost ( roughly 50 cents Canadian) should have tipped me off, but it didn't, and we filed onto the crowded platform as we always do.
The first few cars were full already (another unnoticed but very clear indication of what lied ahead), so we split up, Calvin and Latha in one compartment and me in the other.
I was by the bathroom so every once in a while the ghastly smell hit my compartment like a ton of bricks, and we all hastily covered our noses as best we could. Men with their handkerchiefs, women with the extra fabric that drapes over their shoulders. After a month of grumbling about the required thupatta (the silky shawl women are expected to always wear in order to be less exposed), I was glad to have it so near.
At first, we were all comfortably squashed into each other, the folds of my fabric blended into the pleats of the adjacent sari, our arms pressed into each other, brown into brown. As Bangalore whizzed by, scenic views of Karnatic skies hushed our seats, the bright pastel oranges of the fading sun and the soft whipped clouds combined to form a mesmerizing sight. Palm trees looked up at it all, saying goodnight with their fiercest green. Then the train rattled to a stop and people filed in. Then more people. Then soon enough, what was comfortably squashed together became unbearable, bodies pressed every which way with the overwhelming loss of personal space. To my shock and amazement, people climbed up onto the luggage racks above me, and sat cross legged without even the slightest hesitation. Women squacked and squabbled, as only we can, until they all got their way, each one sitting perilously on the faded cushion with one cheek on, one sizable cheek off. With each stop, more and more people came, with luggage of their own, boldly claiming their square foot of the compartment. Legs dangled dangerously above me, elbows clocked me, and strangers occupied my designated leg space so I forced to bend about. As the hours slipped by, I finally counted. Sixty people! Sixty people where there were ten designated seats. And then I heard it:
"Soode Capi! Soode Chai!" (hot coffee, hot tea)
With his huge metal coffee and tea dispenser, the coffee man was negotiating his way through sixty people. Folded rupees shoved into the crowd and steaming chai appeared instantly through the same hole. Only in India.
Editor's Note: We booked a luxurious A/C chair train seat for Siva from Mysore back to Bangalore!