So we are finally in the midst of our first India Rail overnight train ride.
So it is difficult to describe the train station itself. We were dropped off at Chakki Bank station in Panthakot and once we walked through the gates it was somewhat similar to the busiest, most poorly lit greyhound bus station you’ve visited in an alternate reality where littering and smoking happen every second without a twinge of guilt, stray dogs roam everywhere including the railroad tracks, and an awful undefinable smell permeates every square inch of the platform following you like an irritating mosquito.
There were people everywhere; in line to buy tickets, circled around 2 middle aged guys in a heated argument like a schoolboy fight (some to cheer on the fight, others trying to break it up), sleeping on the platform, sitting in one of the few waiting rooms located by the bathrooms (I will spare you the source of the irritating smell), standing or sitting on the platform, walking up and down the platform hawking food, drink & reading materials to the folks in the train cars passing through. It was somewhat organized chaos.
Kris went to find the station master to figure out what car we were in while I watched the bags and she came back with an amusing anecdote about a guy selling tickets sending her to the staton master who it seems lives in the station! He was in his very small studio (the size of a typical bathroom stall small) making dinner. Unfortunately he doesn’t speak English. He sends her back to the platform we were standing on already and mumbles something about it departing at 920 which we already knew but he tried which was really nice.
She gets back and we move down the platform because it seems with the previous trains the nicer cars are father behind the engine car and supposedly we’re in a sleeper car with ac. As we’re walking we see a board with printouts people seem interested in, so I suggest Kris look at them (mostly cause I’m still holding all of the bags). She does and we find our names and the listing of the car we need to find.
While she’s looking for our names an adorable puppy lab mix within floppy ears comes up to me and starts playing. We play with the puppy for a bit feeling kinda sad because no one else will–in fact people were staring and barely hiding the fact that they were laughing at us. We assumed they were thinking look at the westerners playing with a rat, how amusing.
The train finally rolls in and we walk it down to the end. I ride the metra regularly and this train is twice as long as any 8 car commuter train I’ve ever ridden but we find our car, get on and find our bunks. We’re the top two bunks of an alcove and the nice couple staying underneath us is very helpful with giving us tips on storing our luggage and how to sleep most comfortably.
The top bunk of the car we were in was what I imagine the top bunk of a prison cell to be like: simple, efficient, durable and almost indestructible. Getting up was comical but not as difficult as I imagined upon first seeing them.
Everything fit reasonably well. We immediately were served water, dinner and an adorable little ice cream cup and then expected to male our beds with the prepackaged clean sheets and pass out. Which we did though despite taking some ibuprofen pm I kept waking up in fits and starts every half hour with the constant stopping and starting.
We abruptly arrive at new Delhi train station and the conductor is louder than all 3 alarm clocks I use on my worst mornings combined. We get up, exit the train still in a somewhat comatose state and are expected to find our next train to Rishikesh in the madness that is the New Delhi rail station.
The announcer over the loudspeaker speaks in both Hindi followed by English which is nice but the only parts of her announcements that are clear are the pleasantries both introducing and closing the announcement. So we’ve heard “Attention please” and “the inconvenience caused is deeply regretted” about 300 times but I’m still not sure what she’s regretful about. Hopefully we haven’t missed our train.
We finally make it onto our connecting train with some careful queries and in this train we’ve definitely moved down a class but it’s India so no matter what happens we’ll be fine, every day is an adventure.