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India Train Travel

Looking through old emails, I found the letter a young me wrote on my first days in India, in 2001.

Although the trains have generally not aged great in the last 18 years, the energy, charm, and tent cities remain. When I take trains in India now, I don't bat an eye, but my 18 year younger self was strongly impacted by the experience. I think everyone's first visit to India has a massive impact on them. Here were my thoughts on my first train ride from Delhi to Jaipur...

India November 2001, Delhi to Jaipur

We finally got on the train and it was wonderful! Old and a bit rusty, with horizontal bars on the windows and people sitting on the floor near the doors. There was a young couple from Tajikistan sitting near us that was so lovely and kept smiling at us. They were sleeping on each other and reading to each other, and when it got colder he wrapped a small tan scarf around his head like a Russian babushka. I just loved sharing space with them. And it only happened on a 2nd class train compartment in India.

But the ride out of Delhi began horribly. For the first hour or so, the train rode right through the tent cities. "Houses" made of tin and trash and wood, the ground was made of garbage. Cows, goats, and pigs wandered all over. People live in this. children play shoeless, grown men pee freely, women nap on straw cots, children squat pooping on the side of the tracks as we ride past. We were traveling through their toilet/home. Everyone squats. I don't know how they do it without their legs falling asleep or getting terrible cramps! It's amazing! It was the scariest place I've ever been.

But then we reached the countryside and it was beautiful! Tan fields, brilliant blue-green patches, trees, cows (you never escape cows here), straw huts with pointed tops, kids on bikes, healthy dogs, healthy people, orange fields of marigolds, wild peacocks perched on fences or strutting through the field. It's ridiculous how beautiful this place can be.

And then we got to Jaipur. By this time, I'd been awake so long, I would fall asleep when I exhaled and my inhalation would wake me up. And somehow in that short time, I would dream. Sometimes Anna would talk to me during one of these naps and I'd wake up having heard her in the wrong ear. I have never been that tired in my life. But I have never wanted to stay awake so long just in order not to miss a thing.

Below are some images of train travel in India...

Train Travel IndiaIndia Train TravelIndia Train Station Rogues GalleryIndia Train Station Toilet

More old letters on the blog soon!

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1 comment

  • You captured this perfectly. I’ll never forget my first train ride in India, it was the same feeling of being so crowded yet everyone seemed so happy. And the country side was incredibly verdant and so many people and animals. And that experience was at least 25 years before your experience. Thanks for bringing those amazing memories back!

    Mari

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