Trichy (Tiruchirapalli) to Mysore 30.01.11
I’d left the wild southern town of Trichy I’d really enjoyed it there, but there wasn’t much else to do now except ride the rocking busses or wander around marveling at the dust the wildness the sheer energy of the place and of course the desperate gut wrenching poverty and pollution. I’d happily said goodbye to the stuck up superficial and snotty Breeze Residency Hotel. The south Indian food buffet was honestly incredible but the behind the veneer and grinning teeth of the reception, there was snobbery and laziness. People who cater for money are sometimes the worst snobs you are ever going to come across. Manners are wasted upon them. It is the cut of the cloth that gets the service. There is nothing else to recommend the place. I was glad to be leaving
There seems to be a 24hr booking in policy in the hotels here. So if you get in at 10pm you leave at 10pm the next day. It had given me all day to relax and pick up my bags at 8.30. I got to the Trichy station mangers office at 9pm as instructed and found to my great relief that I had a bed on the night train to Mysore but I would have to sort the sleeper from Bangalore to Hospet a few days later when I got to Mysore, If you follow me, if not don’t worry you will. Hospet and Bangalore was a different region and they didn’t deal with it here, at least I was on the train and away.
I stepped onto the platform not having the slightest idea where I should go and as usual the Indian direction is the arm movement and “over there” so I wandered along the length of the carriage with the rucksack and guitar, bumping into people and they into me, everybody humping big bags trying to figure out where their carriage was. I was in B2 bed 26. In the end I was told
“It’s the one in front or behind this carriage” and so like a bat with sonar I bounced along the walls of the carriage and found it.
I stood at the door to the carriage and looked through the grubby window down the aisle, pale blue curtains billowed in a dim twilight world in there as a breeze blew through the carriage. I said
“Well Micky boy, this is what you wanted”
I appeared at the end of my bunk to the astonishment of two cheeky guys already bedded down opposite me. They saw my guitar and one said laughing
“Hello sir what is your good name, are you any good on the guitar?”
“Michael “I said shaking hands “and yeah I’m good” I said cockily “I’m really good”
“Well you will have to play a song for us Michael, so that we can sleep tonight”
“Well not possible when the train is moving everybody will want to sleep.”
“Ok” I said,
So I put my bags down sat there on the bunk and played them ‘London time’. I played it beautifully and though I had been having serious doubts about bringing her, I’d been dying to sit and just play. The place went hushed. A few heads appeared around the end of the aisle. But I just closed my eyes and sang. Afterwards there was clapping and hand shaking so I played them ‘Lye down Lye down’ and that seemed to sooth any savage beasts that my have been lurking in the shadows.
Now what they hadn’t told me when I booked and much to the delight of the two guys, who were laughing and mocking me, was there are 2 bunk sleepers and 3 bunk sleepers. I’d been booked into a 3 acc which meant I had someone above me and someone below me, so six people all in all. It was tight, but it was actually ok. I’d bought a chain earlier but felt a little uncomfortable clanging a big chain around my bags, it seemed sort of insulting to anybody who was honest in our aisle. But before the train set off people were just chatting with one another and I mentioned I had a chain to a young couple and they’d said.
Nobody minded and I felt much better knowing that I could sleep now and not have to keep waking at the slightest movement. People tell you all sorts of fear stories, but I suppose if you’re prepared the bogey man can’t get in.
To my astonishment there were 2 clean white crisp sheets and a clean comfortable blanket and comfortable fresh pillow for every bunk and as the trains moved slowly out of Trichy station everybody made last minute adjustments to their beds. Then as she picked up speed curtains were drawn at the ends of aisles so people had a little privacy.
I thought of the District line to work in London. When ever I’d not been able to sleep before an early start I was always able to sleep on the tube on the way. So camera next my head, I bedded down and went straight off to sleep and though it wasn’t the most comfortable sleep I’d ever had it wasn’t the worst. The bunks were obviously made for Indian size and so my feet stuck out the end so if anybody went to the loo, which they did as it was covered in puke the next morning, (sea sickness I supposed) they would nudge my feet. So, it was a fit full sleep.
We arrived at 8.30 in Mysore. I’d had a dream where I was emerging out of a chrysalis; I’d woken thinking I was in a sleeping bag. I hadn’t fully emerged yet and the cocoon was still hanging around my hips and legs. I understood.
Once off the train and I was dreading this, I went to the enquiries desk, who instructed me to go to reservations building at the farthest end of the station concourse. Once there, there was a queue of course, damn. But it had a ticket system, hurrah. It was at 121 and I had I ticket for 152, damn. Then as I sat down I realized that I’d left my meditation journal on the train, Shit. So I just ran with my pack and guitar all the way back to the carriage, full of dread that the train had already left, please please be there. Found the book, Hurrah. Then back at the reservations building about 15 minutes later the number on the system still said 121, damn. This was going to take all day and it was probably the wrong building anyway. Then it came to me that perhaps things are standard here and there was a Mr Ben type door next to the far window just like at trichy and I bet there was a stations reservation type person behind it. So I just walked in and I was right.
A woman said “Come in come in”
I told her my predicament and guess what I was in the wrong place, not that you’d ever know until you got to the window. You see it’s all about instincts or learning Hindi but I just didn’t have time for the latter. She of course directed me to another building where the “Commercial Station Manager” would be able to help me. Oh right of course, the Commercial Station Manager. I’m learning
So off I trooped right across the station to the farthest place they could have positioned it, well it .seemed like that, and I’m sure it was. I kept asking for commercial station manager and people would shake their heads and direct me to the next door until eventually I came sweating, ground down and cussing to myself to the correct door and stepped in.
Man it was like going back in time. A dim room with desks in rows and shutters all browns the Commercial Manager sat at the far end facing the room there must have been 20 people working in there, you could almost smell the control. It was like an old regimental but decaying school class room back in 1920’s England.
You see that is what is beginning to dawn on me a little. The British couldn’t have conquered this place without help. Well they were pretty crafty of course and liked a good scrap. But that is not enough is it.
I think the Indians admired the Brits. The Brits had their own class system, not quite as severe as the Indian one, they didn’t burn the widow at the husbands funeral for example but they certainly had their untouchables. But they were organized they had a system, they had manners, they had order and the Indians perhaps related too them, naively, but maybe there’s something in it. It’s just a thought as it seems to me it’s all about higherarchy here.
The Commercial station manager sat looking stern and unapproachable at his long wide desk with 5 or 6 plastic in and out trays all with piles of paper in them. I approached him and said hello, he nodded but didn’t look up nor say anything just carried on fiddling with pieces of paper with an ever so slightly raised eye brow, not to much, just enough to let you know he was in fact listening. So I went on to explain that I needed to book a bed on the sleeper train from Bangalore tomorrow.
“Well go to Bangalore they will do it there” he said though he condescendingly took my ticket.
“This is a stand by ticket” he said
I said with great respect and in my best English accent, as really that was what he required from all around him.
“Well I won’t get there till 6 o’clock tomorrow, that won’t leave me much time to arrange it. The manager at Trichy said you would be able to do that from here.”
He’d already found the application for travel waver quota form from somewhere and placed it front of me.
“Fill that in” You know the rest. Name, address, age, date of birth, travel too & from, when, country, full name, signature and still I missed something he told me sign there, sign here and that was that.
“I will call the station manager at Bangalore and make arrangements to help you with your problem.”
Which I don’t think he did
Thank you very much I said. I just hope he does or else I have the run around again tomorrow.
Which I most certainly did
Good grief what a bloody palaver. It is all such a waste of bloody time and could all be made so much more efficient, but then I suppose it supports so many jobs and many lives and so is just left as it is and really that’s all well and good but a little more information would be really good. To tell the truth getting across India by train with all this weight is seeming like a very big task, one that will test my endurance and determination for sure. But that’s what I wanted isn’t it? I won’t give up of course but, bloody hell.