Well, that was an experience. There was quite a community spirit, how I nodded off with the carriage sing-song I’ll never know.
We were at the end of a sleeper carriage on an old train, sharing our bay with two other men and Pradeep. These open carriages consist of two benches opposite each other, with a window at one end and the corridor at the other. On the other side of the corridor are two bunks which run down the side of the window. The carriage is old and full. It’s hot, even with desk fans bolted to the ceilings which just move the hot air around. There is nothing peaceful about this carriage. At stations, Chai walas embark and sell tea, jumping off the train as it moves out of the station. Food vendors on platforms sell hot food, passing it through the windows to hungry passengers. There is an etiquette to traveling on a sleeper train, if you are on the top bunks you can go to bed whenever you wish. If you are on the bottom bunk or the middle bunk (which before it is put up, acts as a back rest), then you have to wait until everyone is ready for bed. You are allocated your bunks generally on your age and sex, so older people usually have a lower bunk as clambering onto the top bunks takes a bit of dexterity. We had a clean sheet, blanket and pillow.
The toilets are in-between carriages. As a woman, you don’t go alone. Men were lingering by the loos to have a cigarette. The doors to the train (if they existed) were not closed, so a trip to the loo was never alone and you had to be careful not to fall out of the train should it lurch. The loos themselves were very basic. A hole in the floor. Outside were sinks and bins, overflowing with rubbish. It occurred to me that I may be sharing this train with rats. But I didn’t see any. Plenty of cockroaches everywhere though, probably because of the heat and the litter scattered everywhere. I made the decision to not fret about them walking all over me as I fell asleep.
You sleep fully clothed, with your valuables as a pillow and your passport on your body. There were no privacy curtains and the bunks were comfortable. The gentle rock of the train helps you drift into sleep. There isn’t much wriggle room, to say the least, but it was very comfy. I read, updated this diary and then gave into sleep. And I slept quite well. Rob less so. He is keen to fly to Delhi when we leave Varanasi, but then this is his second or third sleeper train this month. I’d rather get the train again. I’m enjoying doing stuff I wouldn’t normally do.
So. Here I am in one of the most spiritual places on this Earth. Varanasi and the Ganges.