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A fight, a family, a delay and a doctor

INDIA | Monday, 10 August 2009 | Views [878] | Comments [1]

I knew it was going to an interesting journey when the fight developed as the crowd on the platform pushed forward, preventing those on the train from getting off. Nowhere seems to be immune from this phenomenon. And in India there's no point in waiting - you just have to push through or else you may never get on!

When I found my way to my berth there was a crowd of people noisily hanging around. They started telling me to do this and that which I didn't understand – “I have a ticket for this seat and all I need to do is sit down here”, I said to myself. During all this a tall policeman came along, looked at my ticket and told the crowd to leave me alone. So I could sit!

In fact the noisy group was a sending off party party for a smiley maternal type, her daughter who was studying medicine and had great English and her sister-in-law with new baby in tow. Once I had a translator they were actually good fun but I was relieved when one guy, who had taken a bit too much of a shine to me for my comfort, had to get off before the train departed. Only the ladies of the family were making the trip. It was a very friendly journey – the plump grandmother kept passing around sickly sweet but tasty treats. I took out my Hindi notes from my lesson to finally gather them into a set of notes and dictionary. One of the guys looking over my shoulder helped me out with my grammar.

Eventually I climbed up to the top bunk and read. I was surprised to sleep with the noise of the buskers, hawkers and crying babies but it's always a paranoid sleep on a train. The worst thing about it is you have no way to tell if you are on time or delayed and there is no list of stations. From the top bunk you can't see out the window anyway. The only solution is to get ready at the time your ticket says and if you happen to be on time, good for you!

In the case of this journey it was an hour late arriving into Ambala Cannt. No sweat for me as my connecting train was not for another few hours at 7am. I toyed with the idea of getting a retiring room – a basic room in the station but told myself to stop being such a wuss and deal with it. It always takes a while to find the platform anyway. The only indicator I could find seemed to be mistaken, saying that my train to Amritsar would arrive at 14.00. To my dismay on asking the information desk they confirmed that the train was indeed running seven hours late. SEVEN HOURS! Two hours killing time in a station is ok. Nine is not. Anyone official I asked told me there was nothing I could do apart from wait. There were no retiring rooms left. Any hotels were miles away in a rickshaw. Pissed off with the lack of alternatives I plonked myself down in the dingy waiting room and locked my rucksack to a chair and hoped to maybe get some sleep. Impossible with the usual shouting and the stench from the toilet.

A beggar came over to me, avoiding all the Indians, coming straight for the whitey. He said he was from Tibet. I know there are problems in Tibet but I wasn't about to hand over a wad so I apologised and he went off. A well dressed man opposite me smiled and asked where I was from.

This coverstation starter with (Maj.) Dr. Rahul Arora proved highly instrumental in my ability to get to Amritsar. After exchanging pleasantries he asked an interesting question (I was telling me about my trip). “What are the financial implication of this journey?” “Well”, I replied, “I have a lot less money now than I did a year ago!” He was on the 9.45 train to Amritsar. I wondered if I could get on it somehow and shave off 5 hours of wait time. The grandly titled Chief Ticket Inspector had told me that he had no quota left... Rahul was confident that I could not only get a new ticket for his train but get a full refund as my train was over six hours late. And he was dead right. It took me a good 90 minutes to do so and a whole lot of queuing/jostling in front of various counters but I got a new ticket and a refund.

As we waited on the platform Rahul and I chatted about anything and everything. He had lots of good advice about Amritsar, where he had taken over his father's private hospital after serving in the Indian Army. The new train ticket had been quite a bit more expensive but when the train pulled in I realised why. It was a Shatabdi Express train which means that its all AC, seated (no sleepers), has newspapers and most wondrous of all a little man comes along with a pot of tea and a biscuit. It felt like being on the 07.25 from Paddington to Gloucester. And bliss to have AC for a few hours. After we had been through both the Times of India and the Hindustani Times (which are both decent reads) Rahul and I continued our chat. I told him about my experience with the doctors in Jalgoan. He thought it interesting that I had seen two very real sides of the coin in quick succession. He charges 100 rupees for a consultation in his hospital – rich or poor, foreigner or Indian everyone pays the same. Rahul gave plenty of tips about navigating his city, how to save a few rupees by taking the 'other' exit from the station. And then to cap it all he gave me his mobile number and the address of his hospital. In case anything happened to me I was to call him immediately. What a very nice man. India has such contrasts. But they co-exist, on top of each other somehow, in the same enormous petri dish. Right. To Amritsar!

Tags: train



It was fun to read your blog. You've made look too good in your writing.I just checked it today.How are you? Hope you are havin fun.Someday Ill get back to you to know more details of your trips. Till then all the best .Do keep in touch.

  Rahul Sep 5, 2009 5:53 AM

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