The Trainride

It is sometime during a trainride around the 15th of November (that's what trainrides do to your sense of time).

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This trainride is probably gonna make top 3 favorite moments.

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Did I mention that the train, the lifeblood of India's transportation system, is also a good place to learn about India? If you want to know what it takes to get a bunch of Indian's to line up, you should take a look at the sign that tells people which line they're supposed to stand in to buy their tickets. It is a list of classifications so narrowly defined and inexplicable that surely only years of bureaucratic wrangling and legislation could have produced it.

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All this and they still don't stand in line. They crowd the ticket window. Even in the smallest towns they'll pull a New York Cut on you and think nothin' about it. It's not about impoliteness of course, these people are incredibly polite. It's just that Indians' way of life was not formed by the exultation of "the individual" like the west. Individual freedom and liberty is supposed to be the center of *our* secular moral code. But hey, this is India. Nobody's ever heard of the Declaration of Independence. Lines don't form because there are no boundaries. Who cares where you're standing? You're just part of the swarm of people. My swarm was the tourists, retired persons and freedom fighters queue ” in case you were curious. I'm pretty sure they put the tourists in with the old people and amputees because tourists are such incompetent swarmers.

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Of course this is for *reservations* only, not tickets, and yes, you do want a reservation. If you don't make one, you basically don't even have to buy a ticket. Just crowd onto the 3rd class car and if you're a westerner, somebody may give you their seat.

This was the seating arrangement (in two rows, facing each other) in the train from Cannanore to Ernakulum. A measly 8 hours. I had to go 3rd class, the lowest, because I couldn't make a reservation and they wouldn't accept my bribe to get into 1st or 2nd class.
The 5 people on the bench across from me: Sindhu (wife) S. Muralidharam (husband) A guy who just glared at me His wife An old lady
(note: the bench is about 5.5 ft long - bare wood)
the 5 people on my bench: Mohandana (businesman) M. Abdul Salam (businessman) Me A girl Some other guy

So I'm sitting on this train watching all the beautiful Indians sleep. They sway and shift. What is it? Like, 2 in the morning? There is a girl next to me. She's wearing an orange sari. I'm listening to Radiohead. I couldn't write earlier because it was "rich westerner show and tell time" for like, 3 hours. The girl is probably 15. I watcher her start to fall asleep and slide into me and then pull back. I'd prefer to have her sleep. I can't sleep with her next to me. She just leans over on her hand. Her chin sleep-crutched. She's so pretty. I think her dad is sitting in view, not across from me, but down the aisle.

I offered her a piece of bubble gum and she stared at it, eyes half closed. Then stared at nothing. I put it away and she glanced over at the man who I think is her father. He's the only other one staying awake and he keeps staring at me. He's looking at me right now. Her long braided ponytail is resting on my arm. She's not allowed to talk to men. I now realize it's not right of me to offer her gum. She couldn't take it. Her father won't let her out of his sight as long as she's sitting next to me.

I tried to hand-motion to her that she should sit back and rest. She took the gesture as an order and sullenly skooched a little back. It really drove home how different things are over here. I'm not allowed care for her as regular ol' person 'cause Indians are so sexually segregated.

She's leaning over forward and I don't think she wants me to be able to see her face. When I get up to walk around the train, I look back at her and she's sitting with her back against the seat and her head back, in the basic sit-sleeping position. I figure she's pooped. When I come back to my seat, she sees me and leans forward onto her hand. It makes me feel lousy.

Everybody is in the most amazing poses: folded and layered bodies, legs sticking out, husbands tenderly caring for their wives (for a change). It's the most photographic moment of my trip and I'm too scared/respectful to take pictures.