Train to Nanded

Once again I’m on the ladies car of the train. This one is considerably less crowded and also much smaller. I think this is a local train and that I have to switch somewhere to a fast Aurangabad train. I’m more prepared for this ride with a bag of food, lots of water, I am wearing pants and a t-shirt, and a desire to get out of the city.

I just witnessed a very good fight between two women and a man. He jumped into the ladies car and wasn’t going to get off. They yelled at him, they shamed him and they yelled some more. I am amazed. I love the women. Sometimes I get in on the yelling and when I do people are so shocked that they leave. It’s my revenge for all the harassment I receive on the streets.

Train to Aurangabad

I never made it to Nanded. I ended up going on the adventure of a lifetime instead. It started in the woman’s car when a guy got on with the distinct purpose of harassing me. I yelled at him, “Ladies car! You’re not allowed.” and not only did he not leave, he got progressively aggressive until I picked up my stuff and moved to where the other ladies were sitting.

This started an amazing chain of events. They asked why I moved from my seat and told them about the guy. They started to yell at him and when he wouldn’t budge they got up and chased after him with a stick. He was so scared he jumped off the train. This was the beginning of a great adventure.

There were two ladies travelling together to Manmar and a Muslim woman with her daughter. Only one of the ladies could speak English so she translated. First they wanted to know where I was going; then where I was from, which I showed them on my atlas. Then they wanted to know what I studied, if I was alone, if I ate meat, what my religion was? I pulled out a bag of cookies and shared. The lady next to me (Jaya) pulled out some Indian corn chips and shared.

I am always impressed by people in India. They could be completely poor and still give everything they have. I think it is because they know what it is like to have nothing and be dependent on the kindness of others. So, they pay off their “debt” by giving when they can. Around dinner time Jaya only had enough rice for herself and *I think* was ashamed because she couldn’t share. So, she went away to eat and then came back. It made me want to cry.

Together we travelled to the Mudkhed Junction. I helped the ladies off the train and we sat together under a tree for a while. The tree was full of doves and we joked about getting pooped on. After a while we decided to move because our jokes were becoming a reality. Dee (my translator) asked people questions on how to get to Nanded. Apparently we missed the connecting train.

Jaya and Dee did not want to leave me in Mudkhed. They were worried because I was alone (as was I). It was 8 pm and pitch dark because of a power outage. On top of all of this I was becoming dehydrated. I couldn’t swallow I was so thirsty. For the last hour of my trip all I could think about was getting up and walking to my mom’s fridge for a glass of cold water. I was convinced this was a bad dream and when I woke up I could get water. When we were in Mudkhed I was so thirsty that I made the decision to drink from the well in the center of the station. The only reason I didn’t was because there no water to drink. What torture!

I sat with Jaya and Dee and while we waited for the next train they took it upon themselves to chase away the usual groupings of boys who came over to pester. They were like two protective grandmothers. Dee had one daughter and 4 grandchildren. Her husband died a while ago and that was why she only had 1 daughter. Jaya had 1 daughter and two sons.

When the next train arrived it was a second class “slow train”. We got on and Dee fought for seats amongst the chickens, goats, other travellers and their stuff. This train was like something out of a movie, packed with everything imaginable.

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Dee worked out where the train was going and finally announced, “You aren’t going to Nanded. You will go to Aurangabad. There is much to see there and you will get there at 7:30am when it is light.” Who was I to argue, I was going to Aurangabad! There was one little glitch, however. My ticket was only to Nanded and I was concerned about the ticket master. By this time we had a large fan club; people came from all over the train to see the westerner sitting amongst the livestock and traveling with two Indian women. Everyone discussed my ticket problem and before I knew it the entire car had concocted a story to tell the guard when he arrived. But alas, the guard didn’t show up so in the end it was a non-issue.

Dee told everyone the story of how we met and everyone in the car laughed at the part where the guy jumped off the train. Then they talked about religion. Jaya and Dee are followers of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. From what I understood, many feel he is the incarnation of Vishnu. They talked about Baba for hours. Jaya and Dee were on a pilgrimage to his ashram. They talked to some young men about their religion and even converted someone. They pulled out a container containing what looked like ash. This guy put some on his forehead, some on his throat then swallowed the rest. They continued to talk as I went to sleep.

Dee woke me in Purna, we got off the train (fan club in tow), and waited for the next (3am) train. By this point I was so thirsty I would have drank from a puddle if there was one available. It was difficult to breathe I was so thirsty. We set ourselves up in the waiting room and I took off in hunt for water.

The only place I could find water was at a vendor who couldn’t speak English but rather than try to understand he simply ignored me. Instead I found a man who spoke English and Hindi and got him to buy water for me. Then under the watchful eye of many spectators I drank an entire 2 litre bottle (much to everyone’s amazement) and when I was done bought another one. By the time I made it back to the waiting area I was gurgling and sloshing like a bag full of water.

In the waiting area I ate a veggie pastry while Jaya and Dee ate their food. When they were done I took Dee out to a food vendor and made her barter for whatever food she and Jaya wanted and then paid. At the very least I wanted to continue on my journey knowing that they had enough food for a few days.

We set up blankets in the waiting area and Dee and Jaya lay down while I stood watch. By this time a group of men had come in to chat and apologize for the vendor. One man in particular said he felt bad for me when I tried to buy water but couldn’t because I couldn’t speak Hindi. He felt embarrassed for his country because the man chose to ignore me instead of trying to understand. We talked about Canada and about India and by this point a whole group of educated men had come in to discuss and listen.

I watched the men talk in Hindi for a while and then I tried to talk to Jaya. Jaya only spoke her native Tamil and couldn’t talk to anyone in the room but Dee, and Dee was asleep so she couldn’t translate. We tried to talk in sign for a bit but after a while I could tell that Jaya was getting upset. She tried to give me her address but could only write in Tamil. She tried to get one of the men to help her but they wouldn’t. I think she wanted to cry so I put my hand on her knee and said “let Dee do it”: and pointed to Dee. She understood. I also understand how frustrating it is to try to communicate when you don’t know a language. But rather than say anything more I just smiled and patted her knee.

For a little while I wandered out of the waiting room and looked at the people sleeping on the platform. India has a lot of interesting looking people. The discussions in the waiting area turned into story telling and a fantastic narrator stood and told stories of Kali and others in Hindi. Even though I didn’t understand I was still fascinated.

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Finally our train came, I woke Dee and we made our way to the last car. Seats were limited and I amazed everyone by climbing onto the overhead luggage rack with my pack and set up a little bed for myself. Dee did the same. A little boy was crying and his dad said if I took his picture it would cheer him up; it did. Just before we all went to sleep I gave Dee and Jaya a gift from my gift bag. Then I climbed up onto the luggage rack and went to sleep.

When I awoke four hours later it was very cold and the car was full of gypsies. I just lay there for a while and studied them because I found everything about them so fascinating. They must have felt the same way because they were studying me in return. One thing that struck me was they were so quiet; and, not one of the could have been over the age of 20. All the women (read: girls) had babies; some even had 5 or 6 kids. The men had soft fuzzy facial hair, first growth facial hair, and the girls still had little girl voices. They were very good with their babies and they were very good to one another. I couldn’t pull my eyes away from their clothes, ornaments and manner.

Shortly after this we arrived in Aurangabad and I parted ways with my travelling friends. It was a sad moment. I am eternally grateful that these women touched my life. I will never forget them.