Jake Gordon

Imprisoned for 42 hours!

12 February 2001

Well, it felt like it at times. This morning I stepped off a train that had been my home for 42 hours including two, pretty sleepless nights. I smelt sweaty and horrible, and I had become almost as brown with dirt as the locals are naturally!

The journey cost me a measly $8 and I bought the ticket the day before I was travelling from Agra in the North East, to Puri down here on the East coast. I had a waiting list 20 ticket which meant I would have a seat reserved if 20 people decided not to go - I was lucky that they didn’t go. Bloody confusing at the station because it didn’t say what train was on what platform, but I managed to find some nice army bloke who told me which platform to stand on, and how to find my seat when onboard. About half an hour late, at 4.15pm the train finally arrived. I managed to find my carriage and squeezed my way on with my bags. Someone was sitting in my seat! Well, that didn’t matter though, because when I showed him my ticket, he showed me a vacant seat and we swapped seats. Oh my God! I looked around on the train and it was jam packed and I was felling a little claustraphobic. Luckily I was sitting next to an open window - but the windows have bars on them (so you can’t fall out I guess) so it felt a little like a jail cell. Well, it was very packed, and then a few stations along, after a few hours of sitting in a half-lotus position on what was like a window ledge, but was actually my seat, a whole bunch more people got on.

For those unfamiliar with a second-class sleeper carriage on an Indian train, it’s a little like this. You have normal seats during the day - like 2 benches of three seats facing each other, and then like a window-sill bench where two people sit, cross-legged, although this can also be transformed into normal seats, if there wasn’t any luggage below. Then, there’s the beds. At first, I thought the beds where just above, like where the luggage racks normally are. But later, I found out there were more - the seats transformed so that they turn into beds instead.

Anyway, this bunch of people came on and I was squashed. I had to sit squeezed in a minute space for about half an hour - my legs going dumb and really starting to aching, before finally the people got off the tain.

By the evening I was talking to other indians that were on the train about all the usual stuff like life in India, whether or not I played cicket and similar rubbish! When it came to going to bed, I whipped my sleeping bag out and tried to curl up in that - there wasn’t enough space to stretch out fully. I got about an hour or maybe two hours of sleep all night - it’s extremely noisy on the train and I stuffed toilet paper in my ears to try and muffle the noise. There was also a horrible draft coming in the slightly-open window, which was very annoying.

Well, morning came and I felt pretty skanky and dirty. Another very similar day, but I talked to more people and finished the book which I’d started the day before - Congo. In terms of food, I just ate a few things here and there like grapes and crisps and some rice, but not nearly as much as you should eat in two days.

I thought I would arrive at my station at around 2am the next morning which would be terrible, but luckily it arrived at 10am instead, which meant I could find a hotel far easier and safer.

But, of course, in two days you’ve got to go the the toilet at least once, and the toilets on one of these trains are pretty much just scum buckets which stink of urine and faeces, and you can literally see human shit lying around the squat-style hole on the floor of the train. Eugh… probably the worst thing about the train, and when it was all over, I was just thankful that I’d finally be able to find my self a real, clean toilet in a hotel.

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by Jake Gordon, some rights reserved