I’m sure I rode the train in India when I was a baby, but December 2006 is my first memorable train trip in India. Ahmed’s brother arranged for my ticket – Train number 241B, Coach A3, Seat 15 Lower Bunk.
It was an easy trip on the lower bunk. I left New Delhi in the evening at 9:30 and slept all through the night on the way to Allahabad. Kusum and Geoffrey were there to meet me at the station. Of course it arrived later than scheduled. My return to Delhi was equally pleasant.
When Peggy, Barbara and I took the train in 2012, we had a different experience. We had arranged for someone in Delhi to buy our train tickets to and from Allahabad. It was to leave Delhi at 9:30 PM. As we embarked I noticed this train was not at all like the one I had taken previously. I had travelled in a car with two tiers of bunks, this compartment was a triple bunker – all inhabited by men, who viewed us curiously. Our beds appeared to be on the uppermost of the three bunks. Peggy looked visibly disturbed. That was when the kind Mr Singh, who was on his way to join the army in Allahabad, volunteered his lower bunk to Peggy. He also gently made up the bed for her. She reclined for the night – and oh, what a night….. One fellow watched his tablet –and Peggy – for the evening. In fact all the men in the car were watching Peggy.
Barbara was bundled up , fully clothed, with her scarf covering her face, using her backpack as a pillow. As she stared at the wall, a cockroach scuttled by.
Of course the train was late. When I woke it was stopped by a railway bridge and children were selling food from the tracks. As I stood at the end of the car a cupboard door slid open and a smiling lad popped his head out. He was a worker and that was his couchette!