journal excerpt of trip to India

6 December 1989 to 13 January 1990
please click on small photos to see enlargements



Howra Station - morning ©TPH89


Saturday 9 December 1989 train Calcutta to Benares (12 hour journey) 9:30 am

(The train has windows open to the air. The wind blows in but at least we can see out. If the windows were shut, there would be no way to see through the dust on the glass.)

fields, hand tools...
gangs working with picks

drawing of rail inspectors
rail inspectors - one holding an orange umbrella over head
two sitting on bench, others standing

We just stopped at Bharanpoor station where all kinds of sellers got on the train selling popcorn, peanuts, tea, coffee, numkin, toys, juice, shoe shine.... On the train, every 5 minutes or so, someone comes by selling things. A boy came and swept under our feet and asked for money. I didn't know we were supposed to pay and sent him away angry. (He, not me) There are so many beggars; it is difficult to say no. But if you don't, all of them come with hands out and won't take no for an answer. I feel bad now because I realize the boy was not a beggar but working for his living.

This train is going very fast now; it's too hard to write.

Rice paddies
hay ricks
boy washing cow
irrigation ditches

fuschia field
palm trees
lots of egrets
birds of prey, in groups of 10-20
parrots flying!
vividly coloured saris in fields
boys flying kites
people carrying hay on heads or on either side as tall as the person

Gaya Station - What a mad house - tons of people getting off; tons of people getting on. photo locomotive at Asansol Station ©TPH89 Everyone putting bags everywhere. People yelling "GO. GO." There was a coolie who tried to put a bag under our legs. T said no. Some man was telling people to go to the next car, that there was lots of room. (Ha) What a nightmare!! T says that the same thing will happen in Benares. AUGH!!! Some guy just put his canteen on the hook in our section. It's very strange. The upper and lower section is ours by reservation but only at night is that observed. Anyone seems able to get on the train. Do they have tickets? Who knows? T says probably just general tickets with no reservation. Wild!

A little later: A new batch of many people have boarded - the others left. Students have taken over the ladies' compartment and closed the door. Someone just dropped a bottle on the floor. It smashed. Everyone all around yelled. The door to the ladies' compartment opened and the students yelled from within as the fellow swept up the glass with a piece of paper.

I've noticed people sweeping all the time. They're always washing yet someone ruins the effect by defecating in the street and/or leaving the toilets filthy because it's dirty to clean it up. photo train vendor ©TPH89 However, the floor is always clean of bits and pieces. It's a strange place.

The conductor just came and booted out a lot of people and suddenly the train is much emptier. But now the people have returned (to leave, I guess). What a zoo. And still amongst all these extra people, (the car is supposedly for 72 people - 6 ladies - there must be 20 extra persons at the least) there are the vendors pushing through to sell hard boiled eggs, tea, coffee, numkin.... Granted, there aren't as many as on the first leg of the journey but they are here, persistant. Now someone has added to the nightmare by turning on a transister radio. I shall go mad. There are 2 hours to go before we reach Benares.

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