The morning of our departure to the mountains Micha had some major dental work scheduled, and Kolkata had a huge clothes and food sale planned throughout the city, leaving the traffic at a stand still. Luckily if you are a bus (the largest vehicle on the road, where hierarchy is based on size), horn blowing has a similar effect on traffic as Moses had on the Red Sea, thus we ploughed through the crowds and were soon moving to the sound of a different horn… That of the Shatabdi Express.
This first experience of an Indian train was an excellent one. The seats were big, comfortable and clean, there were plug sockets to charge our phones, and we were plied with food (curry, ice-cream – not together!) after every stop. And despite the train station being unbelievably busy with its floors covered in sleeping bodies cocooned in blankets, it was easy enough to find our train. I had received a text in the morning with our carriage number and glued to the outside door was a list with our names and seat numbers – a level of organisation beyond that of any european train.
I had brought some work with me but found it hard to turn my face away from the window as the train rumbled through rice fields and small settlements, displaying scenes of wide open spaces sprinkled with farm animals and people. Cricket matches were taking place on dried river banks and kites were flying from the hands of children. There were flashes of orange and pink saris against the lime green crops, women balancing baskets laden with produce on their heads and the occasional display of bones outlined through skin as we munched on chocolate rum balls as we whizzed past.
As darkness descended, fires burn outside, babies scream inside, the frequency of the horn increased and 8 hours later we’d reached our destination…