Monday, June 22, 2015

Day 6-7

It is sunny...I had my night shades on, but still the rhymthic swaying of the train was not enough to hold me asleep.  Once I peeled these off, it was like being unmasked for a surprise party! The sights of the Southern Indian countryside are just spectacular, to the point of my heart leaping with wonder.  This train ride, in itself, gave me hope for what beautiful landscapes I will find in Kumarokom.  

The wait to get on this train was an exercise in pain, no doubt.  Seven long, somewhat nailbiting hours waiting for it to arrive, as yes, it was very overdue because of monsoon flooding, among other things.  The station was glutted with people, sleeping on the floors, chairs, anywhere that their bodies could fit, in a sight so bizarre, I began to think I was actually hallucinating it.  I overheard snatches of broken English, about "trains being canceled" and my heart caught in my throat....Margao was not exactly the most stellar place to be caught off guard--kind of like getting stranded in Jersey City.  I just took a deep breath and said a quiet prayer.

As I was sitting there, trying to retain a calm facade in the face of mounting pressure, a disheveled man, obviously a drunkard or a bum, came up and began yelling in my face for money.  I waved him off and then calmly looked straight ahead, and ignored him, but he was very persistent, and began to get more agitated and louder.  The young Indian man sitting next to me promptly looked at me, and then at him, and began to yell at him in Hindi.  I heard the heated exchange, including the threat of "police," and the bum grudgingly walked away.  I sat there for a moment, and I looked at him, and he at me, and then he said, "I'm sorry for that.  Unfortunately, there are bad people no matter where you go in the world." We smiled, and began to converse.  He was a very nice person, waiting for his wife, he was an engineer, he had been to Europe but not yet to America, and we talked of the snowy winters in the Northeast, and of the droughts in California, and all things American, and I was so grateful for the nice conversation, it was most certainly a godsend.  

After about an hour, the train his wife was arriving in (it was 12 hours late) was finally pulling in to the station, and he continued to assist me, by bringing me to a women's only lounge (which I was not aware of), and arranging with a porter to assist me with my luggage when (and if) the train arrived.  Here we parted company, and I went to sit with the large group of Indian women in the ladies lounge...which was guarded by a sleepy looking porter, and a bored looking police officer.  It was open to the main platform so I could still see the departure board, and every hour that ticked by, I watched my train departure getting rolled back yet another hour, until midnight, when it disappeared off the board altogether!  Alarmed, I asked the young Hindi lady sitting next to me to watch my suitcase (yes, a foolish chance, but the suitcase is huge, and no one was going ANYWHERE at that point), and walked over to one of the porters to try to communicate with him.  After a completely broken conversation, I gathered the train was finally arriving for us at 1:20 pm, and once again, blessing for me, it would be on the track/platform I was sitting on, and I would not have to lug myself over to the more desolate part of the train station, that honestly, had me a little frightened.  I had even took my box cutter out and tucked it into my bra just in case.  But now, I could literally just board right from the ladies lounge.  I was elated.

Many of the ladies rushed the toilets in anticipation of the trains arrival, and actually so did I, since I literally had not used the bathroom in 7 hours due to the delays, and the stress of leaving my luggage unattended and it getting stolen, so I was in desperate need at that point, because even though I had not drank any water in all that time either, so this way I wouldn't need to go, after 7 hours, water or no, you gotta go.  I quickly went into the bathroom, paid my 2 rupees to use the hole in the floor (quite literally--aim and go ladies) and then ran out, found the porter, and scurried to the train that was now, FINALLY, pulling into the station.  I was exhausted but fervently relieved, as it least it was finally here, and I wouldn't be sleeping the night in the train station, etc.  

Plus, there was a very young American couple sleeping in the mouth of the door for the ladies lounge, neither of them being more than 21 or 22.....both very blonde and Midwestern, she with her natural bright blonde hair and fair skin (a BIG deal here), he with his sandy hair and blue eyes, sleeping on their backpacks, but attracting ALL the stares.  I know it's terrible, but what a relief to know I wasn't the only white person in the station, getting stared at like an animal in the zoo.  The little blonde girl (obviously feigning sleep on the floor because her boyfriend was out cold) noticed me looking down at her, and we locked eyes and she managed a weak smile...I could tell she looked confused and exhausted.  I smiled back, and with that little reassurance, she snuggled back a little closer to her snoring boyfriend, and put her hoodie over her entire head.  Good move.  I wondered why she hadn't done it before...after all, the mosquitos were on a rampage (Margao is an outdoor train station) but lucky I must taste bad.  Not a single bite.  Maybe the wasp's venom is still lingering in my scent hahaha.....

So, now I sit in my train cabin, looking out the window, immensely enjoying the sights, and have this moment of happiness.  I don't know what comes next in terms of things beyond my control, such as delays, and mishaps, and other unpleasant things that tend to get us feeling defeated, but the sights of the lush watery pthalo green fields, with the raging gray ocean in the background, the swaying palms, and the cows  and herons calmly grazing together, are enough to make me feel the pall that was cast over me this week start to lift...

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