Why do I cry? I am all alone on the wrong train. I need to find the train to Goa. There are no tourists. Anywhere. It is just me and the Indians, yet I cry. This is what I wanted, no? Total unfamiliarity. Escapism. Why do I fear the next 40 hours or so where I will have to suffer my own company sans entertainment. The landscape is bleak – miles and miles of fields with no lights punctuated by the occasional zhodpatti – or slum.
My driver today in Agra, as with so many other Indians I have met kept beginning his sentences “In India…” followed by some little anecdote about this land. Little villages are springing up around the train stations. People staring at me everywhere I go. In Delhi they stared less. But here on the train, everyone from Chai Wallahs to ticket inspectors thinks I’m some sort of alien.
Spending extended amounts of time with yourself can be extremely trying. Especially with the knowledge that those around you do not speak your tongue. Will try to sleep before I get off to change for the right train to Goa.
It is the dead of the night. I am on the right train. Another 36 hours till Goa. I got off last night in a place called Gwalior – middle of nowheresville. Station full of soldiers. Was a bit nervous. The Indians in my booth cheered my up loads. Dr King, San something and other guy and his lovely old wife who spoke no English. I told him I think I’m falling in my love with his wife. He translated for her and she laughed hard and grabbed my hand. There’s lots of head-wagging here (in the North there is no head-wagging). I am getting the hang of it. I slept fitfully fearing my bags which are under lock and chain, but still. Today, I awoke to shrieks which I learnt were from a woman who had her chain stolen while she was sleeping.
I met some more young Indians – Rahul and Vinod – the hopeless romantic who took countless photos of me with his camera phone. I charged my MP3 and when I took it out the charger it continued to charge! They explained in unexceptional tones: “this happens only in India. There is energy in the air, no need for conventional electricity.” I realised maybe I am to have one good day and one bad day in India. Today was a good day. Met Na’eem Sitarmaker who incidentally, makes sitars. Only in India.
Met Raphael from Chile who has a sister Deborah. He is very cool. Met King Banesh – a 20 year old Indian who claims to be King. Indian humour is quite dry – actually I really like it. They are very deadpan. Vinod is on his way to Puna to see about a girl. Either he will work it out with her or he will have his parents arrange a marriage for him which will mean meeting the girl at their engagement and for the second time at their wedding. But he wants to confess his undying love to the Puna girl who he has been seeing for a few months behind his parents back but has never touched. Raphael and I told him to go for it. India is kind of haunting at night – especially with all these forest fires, caused by “mischief” as explained by Dr King.
Was not alone at all today. I taught Raff Backgammon and all the Indians crowded around to look. Rubbish lines the railway tracks as do rats the size of cats. Everyone throws everything outside – not very environmentally conscious here. Vinod paid for my drink, “In India we are very hospitable. When I come to your country you will do the same for me surely. India has great heart.” And it does. Vinod says everyone is living a Bollywood film story here in India – some are living the bad parts and some are living the happy endings. The Indians I met couldn’t believe I was travelling – and alone at that. “You surely very bold. In India, we busy marrying off children and busy all the time with family.”
March 1st (I think)
Having strange feelings here in Gokarna on Kudli beach. We all went to a jam where I’d been told that there were really talented musicians. But the jam was fully of smoking stoner hippies who really it seemed to me had no feeling to their jamming. How I missed suddenly the jams in my house where one doesn’t have to be “gone” to bond with others – the music bonds not the Indian Hashish.
So I’ll leave. And on my way “home” I went past the loos (the public hole in the ground I should say) and saw that the restaurant that accompanies the guest house had Indians sleeping in it covering every square inch. Everywhere. So I’ve come instead to the beach where I am now as I write this and the waves are lapping and glistening with plankton – the shiny whale food, and millions of stars above are ablaze, reflecting the plankton. India is a place brimming with contradictions. I want to write more but a stray dog followed by a cow have come to greet me….
That’s all for now, must go catch sleeper to Hampi will be a 16 hour ride. The most terrible thing happened. I lost all my pictures – I filled up the memory card of 4GB (About 1000 pics) and they all got erased from the heat. So I took some off someone else’s camera (mine were way better).
Photos by Deborah’s friends. (Hopefully she’ll get her camera fixed soon).