About a month ago, a work trip to Varanasi was planned. A middle school there is interested in possibly using the DSH program and content within its school and surrounding hospital. Just Urvashi (one of my bosses), Anna, and Richa (co-worker) were originally going during the week. However, Athena and I tagged along so that we could not only see the process of visiting the school, talking with principals, etc; but Anna, Athena, and I could stay the weekend in the city...and wear tank tops (gasp), not have a curfew (double gasp), get out of Lucknow, and be ALONE for the first time since our arrival to india. PRAISE GOD! HALLELUJAH!
I would take this opportunity to mention a little bit about my boss Urvashi. However, to simply begin it so paselike would be a complete disservice to her essence. Lady's gonna need her own seperate post (which i probably won't ever have the chuztspa and grey matter to write). I fear she would read it one day and i would die of embarrassment. I will stop here and simply say that my boss Urvashi would be one of those Barbara Walters 10 Most Intriguing People, but not because of what they do (which is important too), but who they are. She is quick, forcefull, smart, gorgeous, eloquent, funny, amazingly flawed, smells like sweet heaven, and wears the most gorgeous saris i have ever seen in my life - and probably will ever see on a live human being. I always believed indian queens and royalty would behave in this manner, until she told me a story about her friend the Princess (like a real one). Urvashi is a force, you have to take in all of it to fully experience it.
I was excited to be going out of town, simply because it was just that -- out of town. Lucknow is lovely, but it has its moments of 'dear god why'...just like anywhere does. I packed up shtuf for my 5 day trip in my small backpack, made sure i brought a roll of toilet paper ( i don't care if indians don't use toilet paper....its like my security blanket at the moment), and made sure i had enough money to buy all the bangles needed to tide me over until my next trip. pure joy.
Our train departure was for 11:30pm. We arrived at the station met by pure and utter mayhem of course. Please note that this doesn't mean mayhem as in someone screamed 'fire' and everyone ran....but mayhem as in indian mayhem. Meaning, it sounds and looks like people are out of their minds, but no -- secretly everyone is on the same page. no need to fear (my father's voice in my head wants me to put the word 'yet' after that sentence). i focused on the lonely enormous cow roaming about the inside of the station, wondering 'how the hell did this dinosaur animal just saunter on into the building?'. i watched the coolies carrying luggage on their heads and contemplated if they are more or less prone to back, neck, and/or spinal chord injury. I took a good glance at the Nepali traveler with his white straw fedora placed on top of his black guitar case. both sexily posed leaning against the table as he wrote in his journal and ate. chicken was his dinner, and that gentleman ate him some it as if he had really been itchin fer some chicken for sometime. Next time i eat chicken, im doin it like that. He was a tall, gangly, polite, scruffy young man, very attractive. I could envision him finishing his dinner, laying down with his bag and guitar next to a wall full of paan stain -- smoking a cigarette with his fedora over his eyes for privacy. Good end to an eventful day. As we walked to our platform all the mayhem around had finished preparing for sleeping. Sheets were laid out on the floor, bags, children, and dinner surrounding them. they would catch their trains in the morning.
If you come to india you must ride a train -- and a multitude of other things of course -- but firstly you must ride a train, and night trains are they way to do it. Varanasi is 7 hours away by train ride, so you get on, sleep, and you are there. done. Its not only ideal timewise, but at night i think the station has a certain appeal versus during the day. Everything has settled, it is less hot, less busy (well i don't really know about that), and all the fun animals come out to play:) Anna has always told me stories about train station rats . I have heard others during my time here, saying they are disgusting, and huge, and vicious, and there's a whole hell of a lot of them.
Well, Anna is terrified of rats, but im not. So I was very thrilled to find me some rats...and YES, they were there in HUGE numbers. I should first say that i have been informed the Lucknow train station really isn't an accurate representation of how big and how plentiful these suckers can get, but this experience was enough for me to get the picture. I am a believer. Basically, if you fix your eyes onto the tracks, and don't necessarily look for anything in particular, just wait there --you will see the ground start to move. And then you will see the rats. EVERYWHERE. Everywhere, meaning not just everywhere on the tracks, but they are on the platform with you too. There are big ones and small ones and fat ones....all eating on the human waste and garbage which sustains them (just LOVELY aint' it?). Enough.
Finally the train arrived. We fought our way through the lines, through the distinct smells (I swear i counted at least 7), and into our sleeper car. It was Anna and Athena on the two top beds, myself and Urvashi on the two bottom ones. For some privacy, the curtains to our little nook were drawn, the man came to distribute the bedding...and we were set. As the train got on its way i laid there with the curtain to the window cracked, watching shadows pass me by under moonlight. The men snoring around us added a soundtrack to the whipping black and grey brown images of cows and hay stacks, people, trees, temples...and then just open field. this was my first time on a train ever...i just laughed to myself. Oh india....oh boy.