Thursday, April 12, 2012

Delhi To Varanasi

When heading to Varanasi, I did not look up any train or bus times.  I am getting super lazy with the trip planning and I just let things go according to God. 
Sitting at a café near the Delhi bus stand, I strike up conversation with a nice local about religion and the caste system of India.  I am sitting and enjoying our conversation and trying to not rush-just letting go of time and planning to go on the bus whenever I feel like it. 

He asks me where I am going and I tell him-Varanasi.  I tell him I am planning on taking the 2pm bus and he says that will put me in Varanasi at 3am.  My eyes widen and mouth opens up wide, “What?”

Just being little Priscilla, I decided to look on the map at both cities and with my weak sense of direction-I thought the cities looked close with a journey time of 5-6 hours ha!

With my poor time approximation, this left me to take the 6:00pm train, which meant overnight on the train, which meant I lost a day of Varanasi due to Priscilla’s lack of planning.  

Off I went to the train, which is ALWAYS AN ADVENTURE.

Buying a general seat, it is almost always crowded and you never know where you will end up.  Sometimes I joke and say I will be sitting on the roof with the lack of space and seating.

Heading to the front of the train, I see huge crowds of people-way more people than I even expected.  As I am attempting to push myself through the large crowd to just step on the train, the Indian railway policeman pulls on my backpack.  He tells me to go sit in his seat, which is a sleeper seat back ten train cars. I shake his hand and say, “Thank you.”

Heading back there, I meet my new train friends.  A senior principal of a college, an MBA student, a Punjabi, and a cute little Indian mama’s boy.
I develop an instant bond with the principal and call him Uncle.  The Punjabi’s share their dal and roti with me and my Uncle shares his laddu and poori(a Northern food tradition).  My other friend orders some Vegetable Pulao rice(served by the train) and my other friend is offering me oranges and grapes. My new friends are being so sweet extending such kindness and generosity towards me, but I politefully decline eating anymore food  before my stomach bursts.

Sitting and scrolling through my little friend’s phone, we watch Enrique Iglesias and Backstreet boys videos-he loves the both of them any Indian I have ever met.  We sit and sing, "All I need is the Rhythm Divine, Lost in the music, your heart will be mine. All I need is the look in your eyes, Viva La musica say you'll be mine."   Everything is going so perfectly and then I receive a rough tap on my shoulder. It is not the police, but the train conductor.

We already established that I was sitting in the seat for the police officer, but he was not there to back me up.  The train conductor asks for my ticket and my friends explain the situation.  He starts shaking his head and I get scared that he is going to send me back up to the general seating. My police friend arrives just in time! Standing there with a huge gun and speaking in a serious tone.  The conductor is becoming a bit more empathetic after his discussion with him and lets me stay seated.  Fewww! But it is not over yet!

My police buddy leaves and comes back with his other police friend.  This guy is following the protocol to the “T” and has me sign documents regarding my safety and switching seats. He then tells me to move and sit on the floor.  I follow his instructions and  I just sit there silently (I have learned to just keep SILENT).  I know that my friends will stick up for me and they do. 

Sitting on the floor, I see the police and my Punjabi friend begin to verbally argue back and forth.  The other guys chime in and speak their peace.  The whole train is now staring and everyone is getting LOUD and all because of one American girl with a general seat ticket. 

Finally, the shouting ends and the Mr. Protocol police officer tells me to get up and sit down in HIS seat. I am shocked.  My friends tell me to thank my punabi friend who was stood up for me until the end.  And this is why I love the Punjabis-friends til the end!

I am sitting next to Mr. Protocol police man who is constantly shining his light or writing something down.  My new friends and I just keep laughing at his serious police ways. 

After all this, I just want to put on my IPOD, stare at the stars, and doze off to sleep.  I am tapped on the shoulder AGAIN by my original police friend and he says, “Get up we are moving you.”

I feel like a character from my book-the girl in Cambodia who never knew what moment she would have to get up and move to escape the Khymer Rouge. 

With an annoyed face, I get all of my stuff together and I am moved to my own sleeper seat in the very next train.  I am shocked at how this incident went from a seat on the floor to one seat to my own sleeper seat.  My police friend asks if this okay for me over and over and kindly wishes me a good night. 

At this point, I would just like to extend my warmest “Thank you” to the Indian railways.  Time and time again, Indian people have been accommodating of my comfort and safety. These people are wonderful. Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you!

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