I’m relaxing in the taxi through the chaotic traffic out of Varanasi. We are leaving cremation fires and cold houses, we are going to beaches with sun, warmth and palm trees. Kaare has bought first class tickets in a four person compartment. The compartments on this class are equipped with bedding, clean pillows and lovely carpets. The upper middle class travels here. There is even air conditioning, so this will be perfect. Sadhus is still with us, his mother and his cousin left for Pushkar yesterday. I still struggle a bit with an upset stomach, but now I get the chance to calm down. The train trip to Puri lasts for about 26 hours.
We arrive early at the station and check if the train is on time, but no, it is over 18 hours delayed, supposedly due to fog. I see a big family who are travelling by the same train, they have already arranged themselves on the platform floor and are ready to be there in 18 hours. Old and young are sitting there with crossed legs, it is clear that the Indian way of life keeps people soft and flexible.
We are wondering what we should do? Back to Varanasi? Find a hotel close to the station?
On every station of some size there is an office with a “Station Master”, we go there and ask if there are any other possibilities for travel this evening. Several people are working in the tiny office, and they check the ticket and look into their computers and other papers. We are lucky, in thirty minutes there is another train departing for Puri, it is 24 hours delayed, but maybe they can find seats there? And they do, suddenly we are on our way to Puri. Not on 1. class, but 2. class sleeper, considerably more lowly than the seats we had ordered, but rather this than waiting for 18 hours. It is not a problem that the wagon lacks air conditioning, we are preparing during 26-27 hours on our way towards warmer regions and paradise like beaches.
I’m arranging myself in one of the upper bunks, using my photo bag as a pillow and pitching along with the train through yet another Indian night. People selling coffee, tea, soft drinks or sweets are constantly coming by, business as usual. Sometimes a few food sellers also comes by, but I’m not taking that chance. I have still an upset stomach after Varanasi, and the only thing I desire are bananas, but fruit is not sold on the train.
The train roaring through the night. It is getting colder, and I am using my winter jacket from Norway as a blanket, and I arrange myself as best I can. It is far between the stations, but now the train stops. I get down from the upper bunk and tell Sadhu that I am going to get some bananas at the station, and ask him to keep an eye on my photo equipment. I bring the Olympus with me. There is little activity on the station, and just a few regular kiosks with mineral water and other kiosk articles, but no bananas.
Suddenly the train starts moving and I jump into the closest wagon, I find myself on the third class. The wagon crammed with people, and they look strangely at me, and wonders what a tourist like me are doing on third class. No seats are free, about ten twelve people are sitting in places designed for six people. I am moving further back into the wagon to get into the next wagon, but it impossible – there are no passage here. OK, I will just have to stay here and hope that it is not far to the next station. But the time passes. I have to stay there for a few hours. I take some photos, and people continue to stare ate me with wide open eyes. Indians know how to stare, and they do not look away. One of the passengers starts to take photos of me with a mobile phone. I take photos, he takes photos, and a little camera duel between East and West is taking place on third class in India. Nobody here seems to speak English, so we are communicating through looks and expressions. I feel safe, but it is sad to see the miserable conditions where the poorest are travelling. Eventually we get to a station and I get into the closest 2. class sleeper. Here I can pass through the wagons and I find my way back to my bunk. Sadhu is sleeping, but luckily the camera bag is still there. Yet again I am laying myself down onto the hard pillow and fall asleep, I do not wake up before the daylight is seeping into the wagon.
My mobile phone needs charging, I will need it when we get to Puri. On 2. class there are no possibilities for charing a phone, there are no power points here. I am being told that it is only possible to charge in first class. I am headed further back in the train, through numerous sleeper wagons before I get to the kitchen wagon, which is the last wagon before first class. I take a photo where they cook food before I enter a first class wagon. It is rather comfortable to enter first class, the air conditioning is working perfectly. Here there are power points and I charge my phone, while I am sitting in a comfortable seat. Everything is as it should be, but the bliss is brief. A train worker approach me and asks me what I am doing here, I mention that I need to charge my phone. No, it is not allowed. You do not have a ticket for first class, and you are not allowed to stay here. No point trying to discuss, I just have to get out of here.
The rest of the journey goes well. I am laying down on a seat at the window and look at the flat Indian landscape. After a while the palm trees appears, we are getting closer. When we exit at the end station Puri it is comfortably warm. Now we are going to relax on the beaches which are considered as the most beautiful in the enormous India.
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