are a terrific experience. They run on time, unlike the ones in Italy, where I have traveled extensively as well as lived for 2 years. Now, those who have seen the pictures of Indian trains completely covered with people will think I have lost my mind. Well, I am not including any of those pictures seen in the Gandhi movie and others. The net is full of them if you must see. Let me say we traveled with no guide and went on three trips : an overnight from Delhi to Ahmedabad, an all day trip from Goa to Mumbai, and then an overnight from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. I am not saying that these photographs are not true, just that we didn’t see them now. India has the 4th largest rail network in the world. It is also the 2nd largest public sector employer in the country. I think most Indians would agree that this is a very positive legacy of the English. India has the second largest population in the world and is predicted to be first in global population in 2035. That is quite a few people to travel by train. And kudos to India, the trains ran on time, or at least the three we traveled on! Bravo! We were very pleasantly surprised because there were other times where things and people seemed to be on “Indian time!”
Now the New Dehli Station is pretty much a struggle, I will admit that with people traveling, people dropping off loved ones….all just there…a snapshot of India….teachers, doctors, students, professors, day laborers, vendors…all trying to get to their train. A small Indian microcosm!
The worst part for me was the line for the x-ray screening of bags. There were lots of rushing , pushing people with heavy bags and there didn’t seem to be any train authorities to control the crowd. We did get through and headed up some steps and then down others to a platform. David had been told that on the outside of the car, there would be a list of beds and names and sure enough it was there. Travelling in a group of 13 is a struggle with some straggling because of heavy bags, and it was hard to stay together. We didn’t have bunks together but in the same car.
This is a third class sleeper , three on each side. We also had two trains that were second class sleepers.
Some people were still struggling to get on board.
It seemed like a giant sleep over party!
Food vendors are back and forth all during the day and night. I do have to give you a warning about the food. We ate on the first train and everything was fine, but sometime between trips, we heard on the news that the government had done spot checks and found poor sanitation on trains both for food preparation and serving. We brought things with us on the 18 hour, two train trip from Goa and were fine. The people were trying so hard to sell us things, of course, I felt bad about not buying from them , but didn’t want to risk getting sick.
Hmm. . . I think these guys got the memo. Notice the the covered heads and hands!
I love train travel to look out the window and see where I have been and where I am going. I like to be able to eat, get up, visit, and walk around. It seems so very civilized and unhurried opposed to air travel. I was a tad nervous about Indian train travel, without a guide and all on our own, but I hope we will get to do it again. Would I like to try 1st class, maybe. I have always wanted to go on the Orient Express, but I remember the very fancy French train we took to Thebes and the poor and destitute of Egypt lined up along the tracks waving at us. I guess that was the highlight of their day, but it was sad for me.
Anyway, it was good to be back home in Ahmedabad!
Namaste. . . . .T I I I