I’d made the bus from Lonar to Jahnsi I was feeling good, the bus journey was about 3 hours. It’s all a blur now actually, then I walked out from the bus depot and was hit full on by a wall of rickshaw drivers, I’d been told 10r for a rickshaw to the train station but was hit for 100r I was standing my ground and prepared to walk, but I was being pushed and manhandled. I wasn’t having any of it but I’d walked into a storm and though I was the centre of it I wasn’t centered, it went backwards and forwards, they were working together and in the end we were going for 40r I remember a guy saying
“Get in get in.” My fur was raised you might say, I felt backed into a corner so I stepped towards the rickshaw and began putting my stuff in the back, I then saw another rickshaw reverse in front of the one I was packing my stuff into. I signaled to the guy to move it out the way as I wanted to go now, more people began arriving drawn to the commotion no doubt, I looked behind me and I was hemmed in there too then I looked into the back of the rickshaw and couldn’t see my guitar, I was instantly ready to run round the other side and punch somebody, but the guy who’s rickshaw it was saw my face get serious and signaled that he’d put it in the back, I calmed but not completely. There were two guys I could see who were stirring things up, signaling I thought for the driver to stall me, so I had my bags out of there in a shot on my back and was walking right through them and away, then a guy came out of the crowd and said
“Get in 40r to station”
“40r” said showed him 4 fingers
“Yes yes” he said
I started to put my stuff in fast as things were getting a little mental and he honestly looked as upset as I was. I recall I looked up and saw one the two guys and locked eyes with him. He didn’t understand what I said to him but he caught my anger across the top of the crowd. He said something back so again I cussed him and gave him the two fingers which I saw puzzled him as he thought I was still negotiating, so I thought I’d try another and gave him one finger but he still thought I was haggling the price which is funny in retrospect but at the time my blood was up and I wanted him to know. The driver hurried me in and we took off as the guy and me were both swearing at one another in languages we didn’t understand. The train station was only a few minutes ride so I arrived there still flushed with adrenalin paid the guy and went to sit on the platform and try to calm down. The train to Jahnsi wouldn’t be for another 2 hours.
Within a few minutes a guy came up begging and wouldn’t leave me alone. I was trying to be quiet, but he just wouldn’t leave me, a couple of guys stopped to look, then another and then two more, so within a few minutes there was a big group of weird looking people all stood way to close for my liking and the guy is still holding his hand in my face. So I just got up and moved in the end, but they followed or that is what it felt like. Another guy came up and wouldn’t leave me alone, another crowd gathered, there were people hanging over the seats leaning on me staring over my shoulder, this happened again and again, it felt like I was being persued. I found another place but the area was covered in spit so I didn’t dare put my bags down so moved again. I found a chair and saw a sneaky looking guy who had been following the scene stop somebody sitting next to me then went to move in the seat. I snarled and , it starts with f and ends with f he got the message and slid away quickly.
I moved to yet another seat where I could put the bags down.
Now although Jahnsi is a busy junction station it is a centre of a rural area of farms and small villages, it’s who the people were and they just hadn’t seen anybody like me not that that excuses it but it explains it. I realized that somehow I was creating waves through the station and to magnify things the Indians have this way where they will just stop in front of you and stare, particularly in small towns. By European standards it is considered really rude and is ultimately inflammatory. Also if there are 4 or 5 looking at something here it tends to draw others in and if you react to it, it will draw even more in. I actually got it, so I sat still and sat it out, they looked at me and I looked at them. I even tried to write which is something I do to be private when I’m in England, but they came and touched the paper and looked at my writing it was really uncomfortable. When my vibe had calmed down people began to lose interest. It was a great lesson for me and an amazing demonstration of how to close and protect yourself. It was remarkable that for the next hour and a half hardly anybody batted an eye lid at me. I remembered a few days later that whilst I had been walking around the meteorite lake at Lonar I’d observed a Bee that had landed on the water and was in trouble, it was paddling trying to get a hold of something to get a foot hold to get itself out of the water. It’s movements sending out ripples across the surface of the lake, I thought
“If you don’t stay still little Bee you’ll let the fishes know where you are and they’ll come and get you”
Same principle, I really got it
I’d booked myself onto a second class non air conditioned sleeper and was really regretting it now as I thought a 17 hour train journey full of the same sort of people who wouldn’t leave me alone would be a nightmare, I talked with the team whilst I waited about some space and some decent company.
The train came in and I got on found my carriage C2 bunk 24. There was a young Seikh guy in my bunk. I nodded that it was mine and he got straight out. I packed my stuff away and chained it up under the bottom bunk which I find so very embarrassing. I checked them all out and they looked at me nobody said anything except a guy underneath who seemed to want to help. I just jumped up onto the top bunk took my boots off and curled up. I was really tired.
When I came round I laid there a while but thought I can’t lye up here for next 15 hours. So I just dropped down to the bunk below and said
“Hello do you mind if a join you” The two guys both made room and I squeezed in. Now the train must have been over 20 carriages long, In actual fact I think there were more, with I don’t know how many people crammed into each and as fate would have it probably the only person on the whole train who could speak fluent English was sat on the bunk below and to top it he was a gentle and intelligent soul called Pavan Singh. The train turned out to be full of Seikh’s all going Amritsar in the Punjab on a pilgrimage to the Golden Temple. The Seikhs turned out to be a wonderful lot, and I had been told great stories about their hospitality and manners by travelers since I’ve been here. Parvan and the Seikhs put me on a new course.
He and I seemed to hit it off almost straight away. He was Hindu and explained a lot about the Hindu mythology for me and explained the 3 main Gods for ,me. There is Rama The creator then Vishnu The nurturer and caretaker and Shiva The destroyer. It was a place to start for me and I can now add the other gods as I go along. I had also been told that the Lingums in all the temples I’ve been too are the representation of a severed penis, but I just didn’t buy that as I seen the reverence with which they are prayed too and there had to be a deeper meaning for them. Parvan told me that they represent God and as God is unimaginable neither male nor female, has no shape or form, the lingums were simply a point of focus where people were able to focus their prayers and their minds upon worship. It made much more sense to me. As we went along he’d point out a temple and say things like
“Shiva temple over there” and there would be a temple up on a hill and I’d say
I’d say “How do you know that?”
He’d say “Because it says so on the front”
“Oh right of course”
He’d been to Naded (I think that’s right) on business and was on his way back to Delhi, but had somehow missed his flight home and had ended up on the train, had not been able to book a seat and so was just sat in the carriage waiting to see if there were any seats that became vacant. Not a chance, so he paid and was prepared to stand, but of course somebody would make space for him. We talked about things from religions to the titanic, it was great. We passed a town at one point I looked out the window at the slums below us.
“Laborers” said Parvan “They build the houses in the cities but they can’t live in them”
As time went on the curiosity of the other people in out aisle got the better of them. A guy called Vijay Kumar who was a deputy manager at an Indian National Bank wanted to explain the constitution to me he was quite intense but just really badly wanted to communicate he’d also gleaned that Pavan and I had been talking religion and philosophy and so began telling me the story of the Baghva Gita which luckily I had dipped my toes in a little before left so I knew the begging story of Arjuna the archer who had terrible doubts about a coming battle and spoke to Lord Krishna who explained why he should fight and not have remorse. Vijay explained in very broken English why the battle had come about. I was trying my best to hang in there and was getting the jist but I looked around at one point and the whole carriage were listening to his version and watching his proud and dramatic depiction of the story. It was interesting. It is a very very long story and though he told it with great drama and fire in his eyes there was no way we could have got through it in such broken English, but he certainly put some more contours on the Hindu map for me.
I wondered what I could do for them and then remembered I had my guitar under the bunk, I checked with Pavan first that it would be ok, and seemed they were delighted, so I got the guitar out and played them a couple of songs , it was great, people from the compartment on either side came and stood in the aisle and when I’d done they all clapped and cheered, I could have played on but thought 2 was enough. Later on in the night when everybody else was asleepI showed Parvan, Satpal and Vijay how to move their energies around and gave them all a little bit of healing, it was just a little flow just so they could feel it. I could feel Parvan was really exhausted, Satpal didn’t need anything, he was calm and peaceful with wonderful gentle hands, Vijay it flowed too, he needed it.
After this the wonderful looking Seikh couple got food out and shared it round with everybody. She had of course long black hair and a brown sari on. He had a white turban and a fairly long white beard. I had observed them as we had been going along. They were lovely with each other, there seemed to be respect and warm the going backwards and forwards between them. It was so nice to see it displayed so casually and yet so formally. They couldn’t speak a word of EngIish and as you know my Hindi is nil but I simply liked them and how they were. Some people are like that aren’t they, they just have something.
The food was delicious and I’d not had time to buy any before the journey and so had just bought a great big bag of raisins from one of the many sellers that came by. He was called Satpal singh and she was Karamajit Kour Singh. They told me through Parvan of their great hero whom I’m mortified to say I have forgotten and didn’t write it down. But they were all going to the great golden temple to give thanks that he saved the Seikh faith and clan in a fight with the Muslim armies. Pavan said they were at the time almost destroyed but are now the most unified and successful faith in India
“You will never find a seek beggar” he said, they look after each other.
To be a seek pavan translated for Satpal, you need 5 things to identify yourself. 1,kesh Long hair,2, Kader steel braclet, 3,Kacha a certain type of underwear, 4,Kangha a comb (Satpal pulled the top of his turban to one side to show me his) and 5)Kirpan a dagger. After a while everybody got to feel very comfortable with one another I think I was perhaps a bridge for them all to talk to one another, it really was very cozy.As we’d sat there talking there was a constant flow of people coming and going along the train carriages, selling chai, fruit, snacks food from kitchen, water, nuts, chick peas, and more fruit, it was like a great big market on wheels. Mixed in with all this were the beggars from kids with dirty snotty faces pushing dirty rags up the aisle on their hands and knees, putting on their best heartbreaking looks on for everybody. A man came by dragging himself along on his back side as he had no feet, another guy dressed in a shinny green bandana and waist coat with a strange cap on top and holding a bunch peacock feathers wrapped in silver in one hand and a bowl in the other just appeared from time to time and just stand at the end of each aisle. There were from time to time “the Kinnar”, the cursed, who are men born with out genitals and dressed as women. They would appear looking amazing, very flirtatious and of course begging. I said I didn’t believe that all of them didn’t have genitals some of them were just Gaye guys. Apparently their blessings are much in demand at weddings and blessing the little children as we would at a christening. Good luck to them and bless them too.
Then at the stations everybody gets off the train to stretch legs, more people get on and the call Chai chai chai goes up and food of all description is for sale on the platforms from people sat on rags with straw baskets to snacks from sizzling smoking cooking stalls to people sat on the floor with a little fire going or somebody with a clay pot full of charcoal roasting peanuts in the shell in a great baskets. it was like a great big messy circus and in all of this were predominantly Seikhs with all their different colored turbans, as we’d pull out of a station the Seikhs who had brought relatives to the train would all stand on the platforms in groups as the train pulled out and shout what sounded like a musical phrase and all he Seikhs on the train would answer, the platform would call again and all on the train would answer it was amazing to witness. Parvan was my continual interpreter and pointed so much out to my that day. I really enjoyed just being with him.
He has actually changed my course as I was due to be heading east after Orchha and Khajuraho but have now decided to go north and see the Golden temple at Amritsar and from there up to Dharamsala which is the home of the Dali Lama then back through Chindagarth and from there the train to Varanasi. We talked it over and discussed time and he reckoned I had plenty of time with two weeks and should be able to get busses easily. It would be some time traveling but I would love to do it. I was going to stay on the train there and then but my seat was booked after Jahnsi. Satpal said if I stayed on he would share his seat with me until we got there and I was really up for it but try though we did neither I nor Parvan could find the ticket guy or TT’s as they are called. We agreed that if the TT came by I would stay if not it was fate and I would get off as I had originally planned, I loved that idea.
It got late and they were all bedding down and though I insisting parvenu share my bunk he just wouldn’t hear of it. I have to say it was the most uncomfortable sleep I have had here so far and actually for as long as I can remember. None of the windows shut and it was a cold night, also the bunk was too short for me, I turned a few times at one point to see Pavan sat on the end of Satpals bunk the melancholy expression on his face illuminated by the light from his mobile phone as he looked at a picture his beautiful wife who was waiting for him in Delhi. He was a great guy. Later on I turned over and saw in the twilight that he was bedded down on the aisle floor and somebody had given him a blanket. I bet it was Satpal, what a great bunch of people.
The last I remember was the train pulling into Jahnsi at 5am I was already awake, Satpal got up to see me off. He sat there combing his long grey streaked hair while I got my things together. He wound it and tied it up with his comb which he tied to the end. Then straightened his beard tied his turban back on and got himself together, he had such a warm dignity, getting himself together ready to face the day. I shook his hand said good bye and to Vijay and the other guy who had been there, I really didn’t want to leave them it had been very cozy. Parvan came out to see me to the platform we gave each other a big bear hug and said
“Well, I’ll see when I do eh.
“See you mick, good luck on your journey and thank you”
“Thank you for all your help Pavan it’s been great.”
We gave each other a glance and a last hand shake then I turned and walked down the dark platform too I didn’t know where, but I knew it would be somewhere good. It seems after all it always is.