My last night on a sleeper train

IMG_4535Last night, we travelled from Goa to Bangalore on the overnight train. It was a 15 hour journey, but it’s amazing how quickly the time flew past, almost as fast as the palm trees and rice fields and the stations. I chatted with my fellow travellers for an hour or so, then, wanting to check out the scenery, I wandered into another carriage where I found two young men with a pack of Uno cards.

Uno! I exclaimed with glee.
Would you like to play? one asked.
Yes please! was my response.

IMG_4547So I filled another couple of hours playing cards with these lovely young men. I found out that they were brothers, and the older one was tying up loose ends in Bangalore (educationally speaking) and was going to do his doctorate in organic chemistry at NYU. His brother was keeping him company and having a holiday at the same time.

The mountain scenery flashed by while we were playing. We passed graceful waterfalls, red cliffs tangled with the green of the jungle, small stations where people hopped on and off the train. Passengers in the brothers’ carriage were quite fascinated by us playing cards—I’m assuming we were a bit of a novelty. We were noisy and laughing and talking non-stop and I stayed with them until the sun set and darkness fell quickly, like a heavy curtain.

IMG_4539Earlier, I had ordered my 70 rupees vegetable curry for tea from the porter and when night fell, I made my way back to my carriage to eat it. It was good. I’ve had a lot worse (not often, though) for a lot more. By about 9.00pm, we set up the beds—not mine because mine was the top bunk—and I climbed into my sleep sheet and read for an hour or so. I eventually nodded off to the rocking of the train, my white noise app sealing out the snores and snuffles and clanging around me.

I slept solidly—the best I’ve had out of the three overnight trains I’ve taken. I must be getting used to it—just when there are no more overnighters, only day journeys. I did, however, dream crazy, vivid dreams and I remember one where I was in a parallel universe and I couldn’t find myself and had to constantly keep peeling back the layers of my identity to find the real me.

Maybe that’s a metaphor of sorts for India. There is no demarcation or delineation that I can see here. Rich and poor, urban and rural, old and new, poverty and excess, the beautifully coiffed and the raggedly dressed are all living and existing side-by-side here quite comfortably. And it seems to work because there is an underpinning logic to it. But to even begin to understand India you need to slowly and carefully peel back the layers because nothing is as it seems.

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