After the wedding I made my way to the South in the province of Kerela.
The train in India is one of a kind. There are 3 classes. I stuck to the 3rd class for the first 3months of my stay in India and soaked up all its glory as best as I could.
There are 4 vinyl covered beds in each cabin, hanging on chains from the ceiling. The windows are bars (like in a jail cell funny enough), so actually they are not really windows. There is just enough room under the bottom bunk to fit my 90L back pack that I tend to pack right to the last cm of space. Like with any home, what the eyes see, the space makes room for and eventually the pack got smaller over the years. “Less is More”
The people I met are really what make the journey for me and of course the view. India is full of all flavours of nature and lack of nature. The grass feeding cows (if it’s not drought season, there’s actually grass), the mothers sitting on the dry edges of the roads breast feeding or holding their babies in one hand, with their other hand free to accept whatever charity someone will spare them. Empty and Full space, blue skies, hot sun, colours galore from the saris that fill the country, smells of spices and people relieving themselves in the middle of wherever. There are more people than toilets in India and relieving oneself in the middle of public view is not uncommon. At least their squatting position provides a healthy easy exit.
The rupee to Canadian Dollar 3 years ago was 44:1 so you can imagine what a few rupees for a local meant where as for me it was like financial freedom.
(I heard recently in 2013 what was once 20 rupees is now like 50-70 and that’s a lot for some locals, even for some budget travellers believe it or not: Like a plate of food)
Back to the train: So my first experience was about 20 hours long from Gujrat to Kerela and that’s including stops. Talk about learning patience, sometimes the train could stay in one spot for hours or days. I didn’t mind because it was my first time, the youth and energy still bright and abundant. I’ll admit I am slowly starting to get a little tired of these long journeys as I reach my mid 20’s. I no longer take luxury for granted and I accept if the opportunity is affordable and available, which it is more often than not as of these last 2 years. I experienced the darkness so to say, and now the light is abundant and I appreciate, oh and how!
I remember the locals on the train staring at me, most spoke English, ad all were friendly when some interaction was made. Husbands would offer me their wives’ home made roti and daal. I usually accepted most of what people offered me. It became a Universal tradition for me to do so and to offer as well. I noticed most people in open spaces are more open than those in closed spaces like cities (Duh! that’s an obvious observation, one becomes their environment)
Only as of after my India trip have I limited what I accept, as it’s usually food and not the “healthiest”. But I do appreciate the offer and do my best to keep my nose in my own business. As most do not understand I just keep it simple and say “I’m not hungry, or I don’t feel like it right now, but thank you anyway” and sometimes they push and force me to to take it and try it. I’ve noticed this in only a few cultures around the world and depending on what part of the country.
“Guests are God” is the motto of India and so it was never a surprise when I was offered a meal, invited to sit, eat or take something first, even the last available bed, it’s mine. In the beginning I’d argue and say no that’s ok, but soon realized it was an insult to not accept, so I just took it, putting my beliefs and customs aside. It’s important when traveling to keep one’s own beliefs and customs flexible and adaptable to the new environment and ways of life. It’s only temporary anyway, unless one marries into the family AH! It can be a challenge but it’s a fabulous way to settle the ego and learn to readapt the cells and it definitely helps with the growth and expansion of a being.
As if the train ride, being tedious and long as it was, wasn’t enough, let’s add a little frequent entertainment and reminder that food and drink are available almost every hour. During those 20 hours I must have heard the words “chai, roti, samosa” and a few others maybe 164 times if not more. People walk up and down the 3rd class cars repeating these offers and waking up many in the middle of the night. Apparently a 50mL cup of sugar with coffee (yes I mean it sugar with coffee, it’s really this sweet) at 2am is a popular requirement for some. I was and am grateful to this day for ear plugs.
Of course by the time we arrived to Kerela I was convinced that the destination was worth the journey and I’m thrilled that I didn’t and still don’t focus on the destination to anywhere, but rather enjoy the mystery of the journey unfolding. No expectations, maybe a little judgement at first, but eventually it becomes draining and judgement slowly slips away, and acceptance reveals its face. Hello acceptance! Hello Sacred Land! Hello Journey to the Unknown! I’m open to whatever you have to offer! I trust! I surrender! I’m yours to discover!