100 Days in India Project

Lone person on a long boat sails serenely on the river Ganges in Varanasi, India, at sunrise.

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.

The cabin was fine – about what we had expected really. It was a small space with four vinyl-covered bunks in it. Each with a little package of clean bedding and a pillow. Fiona and I had our beds on one side whilst two other people had the ones opposite. The top bunk folded up and away so that you could use the bottom one as a seat when you weren’t sleeping.

I made up my bed, stashed all our stuff and checked that all of our documents were safely still in my bag (I am very paranoid about things like that). They weren’t there. A plastic folder holding a bit of cash, booking details, a credit card and photocopies of our passports was missing. Shit. Luckily we still had our actual passports (they are always kept very safe) and enough money and cards for it not to be too much of an issue and I was too tired to deal with it anyhow. I paid about £25 to phone the credit card company in the UK from my mobile to cancel the missing card, but there was nothing more that could be done that night. The train had pulled out of the station and Fiona and I quickly drifted off to sleep. Finally, we were on our way to Agra.

We were due to arrive around 0630 in the morning but, because of the long delay, we were now expected in Agra around 1500. We both slept lightly that night, regularly being woken by distant noises and changes to the movement of the train, not to mention the snoring of the man who shared our cabin. We awoke about 0730 with the sun streaming through the window and the expectation that Agra was due to appear a little later that afternoon, but then we had this uneasy feeling that we weren’t actually moving anywhere. Perhaps we were stopped at a station?

The guard walked past the open door of our cabin so I asked him roughly where we were. He took me to the open train door, leaned out and pointed towards the back of the train where you could see the shape of a railway station in the distance. “Varanasi” he said. While we had been asleep the train had left the station, crawled for a few minutes and stopped. The reason? Allegedly it was fog, although there was none. I then asked him when breakfast might be served. He told me there was none. In fact, there was no food or drink on the train of any kind.

Intended Arrival Time : 0630
Current delay: 14 hours

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