Cows in the Cafe in Varanasi, India
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49/ 100 Cows in the Cafe

As I have mentioned a few times before, India is not the place to visit if you have a phobia of cows, dogs, monkeys, cats, goats, water buffalo or pigs. They will be there, walking and living alongside you for much of your trip unless you are in one of the very fanciest districts of a big city (but they are boring so we didn’t spend much time there).
Marble Carving District in Jaipur
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48/ 100 Marble Carving District

This photograph, taken in the back streets of Jaipur, is one of those images that makes me want to publish some of my photographs in a large format book, or perhaps even have a print exhibition. There is quite a bit going on in the image and when it’s seen in a small format, such as on a phone screen, I think some of details are lost. I have so many photographs just like that. They look amazing on my 27 inch computer screen but lose something on Instagram.
Lunch aboard the Shatabdi Express in India
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47/ 100 Delicious Indian Train Food

Although the last few stories have all been about the woes of travelling on the Marudhar Express I should say that not all Indian trains are equal by any means. After our eventful ride on the slowest sleeper train in the world on our first trip to India I decided to do some more research and upgrade the rest of our journey if possible.
Three ladies wearing colourful clothes walk past a wall in Udaipur, India.
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46/ 100 Runaways in Agra Railway Station

After now spending much of our first morning in Agra sitting in a police office, drinking chai and chatting about life, the conversation turned to the numerous young people and children sat quietly behind us. There were quite a mixture of boys and girls, none older than teenagers. Some sat alone whilst others were in pairs. They’d sat completely silent the whole time we had been there and, whilst they weren’t apparently under any form of detention, they weren’t exactly fleeing out of the large open door either.
Chai Stall in Delhi at night
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45/ 100 Drinking Chai with the Police

The police were taking a genuine interest in our trip and wanted to hear more about life back home in Scotland. Of course, this couldn’t be done officially without a cup of spicy chai in hand so one of the policemen was sent to the office door whereupon he whistled out into the vastness of the station, summoning a poor wee guy who looked absolutely petrified. He was a young chap, probably in his teens, and he was carrying a large stainless steel urn full of what could well be the national drink of India.
A man has a nap in the Ghats of Varanasi, India
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44/ 100 Writing a Letter to Varanasi

Walking from one side of the enormous station to the other took a considerable amount of time, as did locating the police office itself which was hidden away at the furthest corner of the longest platform. We entered a room that was the exact opposite of the manager’s office. This room was completely full of filing cabinets, desks, books and a scattering of detained youths peering sheepishly from around the back of ledgers and piles of papers. There were also a couple of policemen, of course.
Railway Station Rooftops in India
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43/ 100 Making a Phone Call

If you have been reading along you might remember that in story 39 I wrote a little about losing a folder containing some of our documents and some money whilst fighting with a cow and boarding the Marudhar Express train in Varanasi. Now that we were well rested after our first night in Agra we decided to see what we could do about it. Like everything else in India, it wasn’t very straightforward.
Two tired dogs sleeping on a trailer in India. Exhausted, but in Agra
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42/ 100 The Marudhar Express Part 7 – Exhausted, but in Agra

After hours and hours of travel aboard the Marudhar Express train we were tantalisingly close to Agra. I had been tracking our progress on Google maps the whole way which was fascinating and depressing in equal measure. The accuracy of our location was made worse by the jittery 3G signal which often made the icon land on a town further ahead along the line, giving a moment of elation before finally settling next to a place we departed 2 hours ago.
Pencil sketch of two police officers aboard a train in India
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41/ 100 The Marudhar Express Part 6 – Sketching the Train Guard

Wherever we travel Fiona likes to take a sketchbook along with her. Inside it she collects scraps of paper, receipts, tickets, writings and, of course, her own sketches. Throughout this eventful train journey aboard the Marudhar Express, which was by now so delayed that there wasn’t even any point trying to work out when we would arrive, Fiona had regularly popped back to the cabin to see how I was. For the past hour or so that afternoon though, she hadn’t returned. I set off to find her and make sure she was alright and it didn’t take long to see what the problem was.
Dog dozing in the sunlight on some steps whilst a man stands behind in the shadows.
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40/ 100 The Marudhar Express Part 5 – Food Delivery

Given his role on the train, his choice of minimal footwear didn’t strike me as ideal but he was obviously well practiced and it didn’t seem to hold him back from the task in hand. As the train approached a station you would simply go over to him whilst he was waiting by the door, his head full of orders in his mental order book. You could tell him what you wanted him to get for you, pass him a few rupees and long before the train had fully stopped he was leaping out of the door like a whippet to scavenge what he could.
Lone person on a long boat sails serenely on the river Ganges in Varanasi, India, at sunrise.
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39/ 100 The Marudhar Express Part 4 – Progress, Perhaps

Once the excitement, and mild terror, of the calf episode had died down we waited on the platform in Varanasi Junction railway station for another hour before our train pushed aside the mountains of turds on the tracks and pulled up at the platform. A guard walked the length of the train posting lists, carefully printed onto the kind of dot-matrix printer paper  you used to get in the 90s that had holes up the sides. On the lists were the location of each passenger’s berth so it is a case of finding your carriage, locating your name on the list and boarding the train to find your allocated bed / seat.
A young cow standing on the station platform in Varanasi, India
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38/ 100 The Marudhar Express Part 3 – Cows at the Station

The very first thing that struck us when we arrived was that it was less like a station and more like a giant encampment.  Sure, the physical structure of Varanasi Junction railway station was much like any other, but strange scenes inside were very different to what we expected. We discovered that the thousands of pilgrims who visit Varanasi each day don’t stay in hotels (because of the cost I assume). They arrive one day by train, walk the few miles to the river Ganges to perform their sacred rituals, walk back to the station and, basically, sleep on the floor until the train comes again the next day.