Sunday, February 12, 2012

I almost gave berth during a train ride :)

I reached the railway station at Lucknow a couple of minutes before 5:00 in the morning.  Yep, that early in the day, in order to board the train to New Delhi.

No sign of the train--the Gomti Express, which departs from Lucknow.  I double-checked the board, and I was at the correct platform after all.

I wasn't sure whom to ask either, given that I was in an alien territory

I walked up and down the platform, and spotted a young guy of college-going age and, perhaps, his father.  "Gomti Express platform ...?" I asked them.  They nodded yes.

Few more minutes later, the train slowly rolled in.  I entered the coach, and it was obvious that the guy sleeping all wrapped up was not a ticketed passenger.  Fortunately, my seat was across from him.

The paranoid person in me worried that I could be in the wrong coach.  So, stepped out to check for my name in the chart pasted on the outside of the coach.  There it was: "Sriram Khe."  Phew!

A guy about ten years younger than me, wearing a suit-jacket, entered the coupĂ©.  And then a mother and daughter.  We were the four for that coupĂ©, I thought, and wondered when the sleeping giant would be awakened.

It was time for the train to depart, but nothing happened.  Strangely, nobody else seemed to be perturbed by anything, unlike me! 

Finally, after a twenty-minute delay, the train gently moved. 

About five minutes away from the station, a ticket official, a turbaned-Sikh, came by and shook hard the Rip Van Winkle character who was snoring away.  The official asked for his ticket, and the guy seemed shocked that the train was moving, and moving quite fast.  He scampered, while the official and a few other passengers smiled away.  I wonder whatever happened to him.  Did he jump off the moving train, I know not.

Meanwhile, the daughter asked the official if there was a free lower berth for her mother, whose assignment was an upper berth. 

I offered my berth to the daughter for her mother to use.

"Thanks, but I don't want to disturb you."

I wondered if in the Indian cultural settings, I, with my bald and greying head and a grey beard, was also considered an "older" person. Age is relative to cultural contexts, I suppose.  In the US, sixty and seventy year-olds seem to rush around with a lot more energy than what I have. 

Or, was it because I so clearly come across as a foreigner?

The official worked out a solution for them.  I slept away for a long while.  In the berth that was above mine, the daughter slept even longer, almost until the very end.

As we neared New Delhi, the daughter gave me her business card and told me to contact her if I needed any help at all.  Now, that is wonderful hospitality and friendliness, right, especially to this stranger? 

I hope to meet more such friendly people in the couple more train rides that await me before this lengthy India visit comes to an end.

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