Marriage Proposals: 0 (what’s wrong with me?)
Curry Dishes Eaten: 26
Pounds Sweated Off: approx. 1.5
You know when you’re at the gym…standing on the treadmill ready to get started…one foot on the side, the other on the belt (to test the speed)…and as the speed increases, you’re hopping on one foot?!
Well…this was the EXACT position i and Ann were in the other day when we jumped onto the train a little too late.
The two of us (plus Katie) were headed to another train station, bound for Puri – a beautifully quiet beach town 10 hours south of Kolkata. As the train pulled in, Katie managed to elbow her way into the mosh-pit of people hanging out of the door…and as if the passengers were quick-sand, she was gone.
Quickly, Ann and i raced up and down the platform looking for an opening that had an ounce of space, but all we could do was jump on the side and hang onto the bar….
As the train lurched forward in a not-so-gentle manner, we nearly got sucked under before jumping off (at the local people’s request no less…and might i add: if a man with no shoes, who talks to himself and wears nothing but a loin-cloth tells you to abandon ship…you know you’re in danger..)
There she went.
Here we were.
Now comes the real beauty of India (disguised as a frustrating fact to some, perhaps) –
Suddenly, all the people at the station..literally..crowded around us and took turns bestowing us with redundant statements such as “you’re friend is on that train and you are not!”…”your friend will be lost!”….”you almost [i[died!”…all we could do was listen and nod, listen and nod, listen and nod.
Out of nowhere, to our rescue, came a man named Harshit – a true symbol of the kind-hearted nature that all Indian people seem to posess.
Not only did this total stranger help us to elbow our way onto the next train, but he skipped his stop only to search for Katie and then tuck us into a pre-paid cab to our connecting station!
Travellers 0, India 1.
Puri. 5am. We made it…all limbs in tact.
Major differences between Puri and Kolkata / Khardah:
1. less people in Puri
2. Quiet atmosphere in Puri
3. Ocean in Puri
4. More stray cows…well, that’s a tough one…
Our little vacation within a vacation was all about eating, sleeping, sitting in the sun and swimming…which subsequently led me to do alot of thinking – mostly of the kids i see at Sealdah Train station.
I really can’t get these children out of my mind – they are of a subculture that i can’t in any way identify with – which is a big reason, i believe, that i haven’t been completely dibilitated by their harsh realities.
Forgotten, abandoned, orphaned or ignored, these kids have a unique way of replicating the family they have never had. Infants..teens…and everyone in between seem to band together – age doesn’t seem to separate them in terms of companionship.
At first exposure to this side of life, i can truly say i was completely comfortable – and that’s not because i was “cut out for this”, but, like i mentioned earlier, it’s due to my not being able to relate whatsoever.
the comfort i feel does have its end and this occurs each time we bring out the food to feed them with.
Slowly i become aware of where i really am: the piles of garbage…the huddled heroin smokers…the shoeless people sprawled out on the cold pavement…the trains…
As the children line up, their almond-shaped eyes exude survival rather than sweetness. They push, shove and BEG for seconds. This is when i start to feel out of place, small and naive.
This is when you need to watch your valuables even with the smalles of fingers…just the other day a boy no older than 2 had his little hand fishing around for coins in my pocket – and the saddest part is the fact that he has no idea why he has to do this, but rather, this is what the others have taught him to do. When i looked at him, he just smiled and hugged my leg…then walked away.
I came from a place where my eight-year-olds had better cell phones than me to a city where a child is lucky to own flip-flops. From a country where school is a vice, to another where it is the most prized of priviledges. The list of comparisons runs long and the contrasts are vast. I still have a lot to learn.