I Met some Boys On a Train to Pushkar

Midnight, Saturday, November 20, 1999

Fuck, was that 2 days? Ok, it was only a day and a half. I'm sitting out under the light pole in the desert. There's 2 guys here smoking beedis. Wow, what a ride. Of course there's no where to start. My head hurts. I'm in Pushkar. It's weird here. This journal entry sucks so far. The dust and smoke is so thick here that it's actually worse to breath than downtown Bombay. My newest friends in Pushkar are Tony and Pinky (nicknames), a couple of Hindu guys. They're going to have a tough time replacing the 11 rambunctious Muslim boys on holiday that kept me company getting here. I want to make notes about them before they fade from memory.

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I heard them coming from a long way off. I was trying to get from my local train connection to the long distance terminus at Bandra station. There was a big commotion on one of the train cars and it looked like one of those shouting human traffic jams that happens on the local trains in Bombay when frantic passengers are trying to get off before the train leaves and the people trying to push on are blocking them from getting out. It tends to get pretty violent. It would never happen in New York where the violence would escalate too quickly and die out too fast to ever create the sustained panic and fury of a Bombay train jam-up. Indian's can get very worked up and pushy and shouty without ever actually hurting each other. And they have to sit around arguing endlessly about stuff instead of just letting it go. I looked back to see what caused the noise and saw about 10 men running down the platform. First Sajid accosted me as I was making my way through the throngs of people to the Bandra Terminus. "Hello!!!!! Where are you going sir?!!??!" Pushkar. "We are going there too!!" He was so loud that I said "I hope you guys aren't on my car." I had visions of those assholes that kept our whole car awake all night from Cannonore to Ernakulam. So I first met Sajid and then they all swarmed me and asked my name and ran back and forth yelling and singing to one another and to me they would scream, "James, James, hurry please."

We looked at the seating chart and they were on my train. Sleeper #3. I sat down with them and usually there's space for 8 passengers in a section but we fit 12. Boys like that go 2 or 3 to a regular person, space-wise. They were introducing themselves, giving their real and their nicknames (all Indian boys get pet names) and I set them straight that my name wasn't James. There were so many that I had them make a seating chart just like a substitute teacher. These guys were feverishly clowning around like I used to when we had a sub. Next to me was Feroz, a kid with acne, skinny and tall, just like Ackley in "Catcher in the Rye", but he was real nice and he stayed up the longest with me that night. I think "Bidi" was the pet name of one of the guys that was hanging down from a top berth during the train ride. Or was it P.T.? They laugh explosively at everything I said anyway so I didn't get a clue that I was messing it up. He was the oldest. He lives in Chor Bazaar and he's a recovering drug addict. He had burned out wasteoid eyes. I think it was Aniv that wanted to be a programmer so he could go to the US. He also really wanted me to sit on top of the train with him but I wasn't going to squeeze between the moving cars and get pinched in two like Vincent DeNofrio did on that Homicide episode. My favorite was Wasim, or "Boka Chode" as his friends called him. Another tall, skinny guy who bummed me a smoke and took an interest in my net savvy-ness. He's planning on reading this when I get it published, and seeing the 30+ pix I took of them. Imran or "Jumma" was a sensitive guy whom the other guys liked to incessantly kid about being a "homo". "Baga" was a slick, good-looking guy who was always watching me. He stayed up late and looked at the beautiful sleeping girls in the next compartment with me. Abdullah was the leader of the crew and he had such lazy, sunken eyes that I thought he was a drug fiend for sure.

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Oh, and just as I'd imagined, tortured Camel yelps in the distance. It's actually too cold to sit out here and write about the girls on the train who giggled every time I walked past and eventually invited me to the marriage party they were going to. Or about "The Commander" who was wearing a fringed, suede Davey Crockett jacket and gave me a ride in his jeep to my tent. I'm sitting next to Kalyan, one of the porter / security guards. They want to know what I'm writing and what my wife's name is. Everybody wants to know if I'm married. Like every meeting comes with a form you have to fill out with a line for "spouse" that's not optional.

If only you could have seen the bus I stepped onto from Ajmer to Pushkar! ALL and I mean ALL the people were Rajastani villagers or farmers and the men ALL had turban things and ALL the women either had yellow, red or orange saris over their head. Most women had huge rings that looked like charm bracelets in their nose that were chained to their ears. I popped on with my bags and stopped dead. 100% full except for the conductors seat in the front. They say "Only one seat. Sit!" So I just sit and I feel 50 pairs of eyes on my back. Wow, I felt like I'd just walked into a Star Wars bar scene without my light saber. It was a warm but very foreign feeling. The men all stared coldly but curiously at me and the women…? It's upsetting when you look around for friendly, welcoming or flirty female faces and you see nothing but multicolored Halloween ghost costumes. Weird. That moment when we were thrust into each other's presence is why I'm traveling.

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It's kinda cold out here but I already have all my clothes on and Lacharram, another bell-hop, just brought us really good coffee. These guys are shooting the shit, 6 of them, the moon is almost full, it's midnight way the fuck out in the Rajastani State Tourism Department's tent city. I lost my damn book on the train. That bummed me out. I learned Hindi for "Have you seen my book?" and walked around asking all the stunned passengers. That really upset me 'cause I'll never find another one for a while. I started the Vonnegut and that cheered me up. I can't describe this place right now. I can't. Really. Wait till you see the pix of the train. All I can say is "Oh, my lord".