Indore and out

Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
Trip End Mar 21, 2008

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Flag of India  ,
Sunday, January 7, 2007

The first bus out of town is the local bus, meaning it stops whenever a person by the side of the road wishes to catch it. This is quite often. Accordingly, the bus never really gets up a head of steam and it takes forever for us to cover the relatively small distance back to Indore.

We are getting a bit tired of buses by this stage and we decide to take the train for our next leg, to Jabalpur. India is famous for its trains and we feel like we are missing out by always taking buses. At the train station we get directed across the street to the Reservations Office, a large open building with about 25 counters. All of them are attended but only window 12 has a queue, one that winds its way all around the inside of the building for about 200 metres. This is the queue that you line up in to get a number and then you wait for your number to pop up. We line up in the queue and I realise we don't have any cash. Jane asks a guy if there are any ATMs around. "Come with me", he says, so I go with him while Jane holds our place in line. He sits me on the back of his little moped and we tear off into the crazy Indore traffic. We try about seven ATMs that all, for one reason or another, don't work, before finding a good one. We have been gone for about 45 minutes but when we get back Jane has only moved forward a few metres. We wait in line for another hour or so before a guy comes up and tells us we should be lining up at window 17, the foreigners' window. So we reluctantly leave our spot and go to line up in window 17 for another hour or more.

People here have no compunction about pushing in to lines, but we (especially Jane) do not stand for it. When some guy walks straight to the front of the queue that we have been standing in for over an hour, Jane taps him on the shoulder and says "Excuse me, sir, we've been waiting here for an hour, please go to the back of the line", and points to the back of the line. "No, no, senior citizen, senior citizen!" he protests but we aren't buying that. He may well be a senior citizen but he looks perfectly healthy and we'll be buggered if we're letting every single old man just waltz up to the front of the slowest-moving queue in history. The old guy puts up a good fight but we are more determined than he is. He probably realises that we are prepared to get physical over this and he eventually backs off. People are always trying to go straight to the front and do so quite brazenly. More surprising is how the other people in the line don't seem to care at all. It is left to us foreigners to stand up for what's right.

Another hour of standing brings us to the front of the line. Almost inevitably, we are told that this line is only for reservations a day ahead. If we want a ticket for today, which we do, we have to go back to the main station, where we started. We trudge back over to the station to the same-day ticket area, to find another long, slow queue. Naively, we thought that getting to the station at noon would give us plenty of time to buy a ticket for the 4pm train but it is now already 3.55, meaning we have to readjust our sights towards the 6.30 train - the last of the day. This queue takes another hour, including another verbal joust with a portly Indian woman trying to force her way to the front. The guy behind the window is not at all sympathetic to our tale of five hours in various disorderly queues and tells us that all the trains to Jabalpur are now full.

I had expected that buying a train ticket might be a frustrating experience but I had also thought we eventually get the ticket. We are a little bit pissed off and disappointed but India is the kind of place where you have to roll with the punches. 

We are happy to leave Indore by whatever means necessary. A tout leads us to a tiny travel agent who books us on an overnight but to Jabalpur. Jane makes friends with all the bus staff - Rakesh, Ishwar and Vikas. Unlike a western-style coach that just has a driver, these Indian buses have all sorts of people chipping in. There is the driver, of course, but also the second driver (who sleeps until it is his turn to drive), the conductor and at least one other guy who does odd jobs like inserting the loud Bollywood action DVD into the TV and yelling the bus' destination out the window to potential passengers. We are getting quite good at these overnight buses now, despite the night-time cold, and they don't feel like the ordeal that they used to.
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