I write this from somewhere in rural India. We left Delhi about an hour ago headed for Agra and are in what looks like baron landscape with the odd derelict looking small brick building. Charlie is sat with his Ipod and reading Famous five, Abi is sat listening to the Kick Ass soundtrack which she has been obsessed with since wacthing the movie a few weeks back, whilst peacefully sat gazing through the window as India passes by. I am sat listening to the Tempur Track which is actually pretty good.
The alarm was set to go off at 0420 – I have a new phone (HTC Desire) which i have not yet got the grip off. So of course the alarm didn’t go off. I looked at the clock through tired eyes and saw it was 0515. It was a mad rush out of the hotel and for the walk to the train station.
Upon arrival at the station we were greeted with the usual madness that is any train station in Asia. We went straight to departures and were greeted by yet another attempt to scam us.
Let me explain; From the UK it is possible to book tickets for Indian Rail, there are many agents who do this but i found Cleartrip to be the easiest and cheapest (they add about 50p for their services) You choose your journey and then book it and print out your Eticket. All services in India require reservations. Even if you go on standby for a train you need to reserve yourself as a standby. Anyway, the Eticket is your ticket.
So we arrived at departures and before we went through security the official asked for our ticket, bear in mind this is at security with police present and he was an official. “This needs validating” – Oh, the this needs validating scam. Let me guess, i have to go to an office and pay for someone to ‘validate it’ No chance. I told him that it didn’t and he started to try and usher us to the side, i just ignored him and walked straight through security. As we walked up the stairs i looked back and saw him laughing.
It of course did not need validating, it was just another attempt to rip us off. It’s a funny thing, in 10 weeks last year throughout Europe, Russia/Asia i could count on one hand the amount of times we tried to get ripped off. Yeah there was the whole “sir you buy” and it was pretty full on at times. But it was nothing compared to what we have experienced in Delhi.
We are sat in AC2 Chair which is basically second class air conditioned. The train itself is actually in good condition and at seat service is all complimentary – Newspaper, bottle of water, biscuits, mints and tea followed shortly after by a meal. Each carriage has its own police officer armed with an AK47 and handgun.
The general feeling amongst us right now is that Abi is loving it, you really can’t wipe the smile from her face. She is absolutely loving the experience and is finding so much good in everything. I look at her now and she is dancing in her seat after just being told that it wasn’t Emley Moor mast she just saw!
Charlie is also enjoying himself, but maybe not on the level Abi is. I think he understands a lot more and when we go look at religious sites he wants to know when it was built and why whilst Abi wants to know if we can go inside.
Both are coping extremely well with the heat although both are still not convinced wearing a hat is good for them. Last night we ate some proper Indian food which blew my head off. They both wanted to experiment and tasted loads of foods, Charlie settled on a vegetable platter which was 3 different Veg curries all in small dishes served with papadums and chapattis with yoghurt and salad dip. (cost 50 Rupees) Abi had Egg Noodles, which is basically as the name suggests Indian style, with spices and chilli (40 Rupees) I had Veg Noodles. Even the chef tried to scam me, in India Peppers are called Capsicum. When my noodles came they had loads of green bits of what looked like pepper. I asked if it was Capsicum and got a nod. Half a plate later and my mouth was on fire. They weren’t capsicum at all – they were green Chillis.
Just to finish off before i too gaze into the beauty of what has so far kept Abi captivated out of the window i just want to say that although we had it tough in Delhi we are having a great time. Though seeing a small boy this morning who didn’t look like he would make the weekend is a sobering reminder of the absolute poverty suffered here by many. The kids are facing the reality of how privileged they are and I am just grateful for what we have.
A quick message to Jack – Miss you loads mate, we are still a team! Love you xxx