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Monday, April 01, 2013

Characters on a Train




Because I had gone to India, and because I had to make it to the Kumbh Mela, the largest people gathering ever recording in the world, I had to act fast and find a train as quickly as I could. Somehow with a great deal of luck, or what others may say was Providence or Karma, I managed to on my very first day in India, get a bed on a sleeper train at Central Station in Mumbai. This was unforeseeable. But like I said, something seemed to be with me throughout it, for the train was packed from engine to caboose (if Indian trains have a caboose) with mobs and mobs of people, mostly Hindu adherents who were on a lifetime journey to bathe in the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the Sarasvati and attain moksha.

Out of the entire train, there was one area of bunk beds where us foreigners sat and lay. The rest of the train was loaded with Hindu pilgrims in their shawls and turbans. And even our foreign car was made up of pilgrims as well. I was one of the few tourists going.

It was to be a long train ride across India. From Mumbai to Allahabad, cutting in a northwesterly direction through the heart of India. The length of the trip. 24 hours. I would get to know the other nearby passengers pretty well during this time.

My railroad journeying neighbors included 2 devotees of the Hare Krishna sect. One was Nepalese and blended in with the locals, though he was considered a foreigner, I guess, and so was with us. He slept on the top bunk and rarely spoke to us. His other sect brother was from Kazakhstan and spoke strong Russian. And I could understand bits of what he was yelling in the phone whenever he phoned anybody. Both of these guys took to each other very well. I don't think they knew each other before. But because they were of the same creed. they spent their time on the top, 3rd, bunk chatting away for large chunks of our train time. The Hare Krishnas are sort of the charismatics of the Hindu faith. They are mostly young followers and hyper evangelical. Usually, a type of hippie, I believe they have the highest following among non-Indians. They dress in a similar scrub outfits, and they bear the same haircut, their heads cropped close around, however with a little tuft or pig tail sprig on the back of their heads. This is so Lord Krishna can snatch them out of the life cycle by the back of their hair.

Then there was this soft-spoken Venezuelan who was an artist. He didn't speak much at all either, and kind of kept to himself. He was a tourist like me.

And then there were the guys that kind of made up the bulk of the conversations. Mainly, two fellows who were on pilgrimage. One was a middle-aged man originally from California. A tall, lanky fellow with a guru growing beard and hair. He currently lived in Mumbai and studied under a guru or baba that was to be at the Mela. This American had been an actor and had starred in some commercials in his life and done odd acting jobs ever since. He was the stereotypical Hollywood gone New Age Movement. And here he was bounding on a train with us.

His good friend, was an actual Indian, but because he decided to take the trip at the last minute, and he being friends with the American, he rode in our area, and as I found out later didn't have a bed but slept on the floor. A very friendly man, who was also an actor and had been in actual TV shows and soap operas and stage performances in Mumbai. These two thespians were very sincere and interesting to talk to. I will call them Hollywood and Bollywood from now on. And most the conversations revolved around them.

Then there was another tourist on his way to Varanasi, a Belgian, named Anthony who had spent the past 3 and a half years traveling and working mostly in food services around Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. He was soon to be back home in Belgian but just before, he decided on an adventure in India. He had this big red knit hat that kept his coiled dreadlocks and made his hat a noticeable bulb. I immediately took to the guy.

We all headed on this rickety train towards the Kumbh Mela, what was, as both Hollywood and Bollywood claimed to be, the absolute salvation of our souls.
Now that I've given you the characters...I will give you the happenings in the next installment...
Til then....

3 Comments:

Blogger Adam Newby said...

So were all those people standing for 24 hours?

9:51 AM  
Blogger Brian Harrison said...

Actually, the photo here was a different shot of us on another train leaving Allahabad. Though by the time we neared the city that we were going, it looked much like this inside. You had to climb above people in order to go to the bathroom.
Though, the majority of this 24 hour ride mentioned here, you could move about, and while not everyone had beds, they could stretch out in places.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Cynthia Harrison said...

I'll take our overnight train ride in Russia over this!!

9:22 PM  

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