When I woke up the next morning, I had a quick Skype call with my sister and my niece. It was so nice to be able to talk to them. ♥ I didn’t have much time, so we ended the call, and I began cleaning up and reassembling all of my luggage. As I was readying my bags, I heard some sort of singing in the distance. It came from outside. I rushed to the window and hit ‘record’ on my audio recorder. The voice returned, singing again, as if it was coming from a speaker system or some local temple. In the dark and dead silence of the morning, it gave me chills to hear such a powerful melody echoing in the distance. Shortly after, I made my way downstairs, and checked out. I signed the paperwork and asked the man at the desk to call Teja. He dialed the number and handed me the phone. The phone’s ring was very strange and very different from what I am used to hearing. It was less a soft trill (Brrrrring), and more a mechanical ‘blllp‘. I’m hoping that makes sense. Suddenly a bubbly female voice began talking on the other end of the phone, telling me that the call couldn’t go through. I asked the man to please try again. He looked at the number and dialed it again, this time holding it to his own ear. When Teja answered, the man let him know I was ready and waiting. I thanked him, took a seat, and waited.
Teja arrived just 5 minutes later. He helped me with my bags, we got in the cab and left for the train station. I was just happy this was all happening. I enjoyed the view all the way to the train station.
When we arrived, there were SO many people outside. I was a bit surprised. I climbed out of the taxi, and searched my backpack for the ticket receipt, handing it to Teja. He led the way and I followed him through the crowd. There was a security device, meant to scan everyone’s bags, but it wasn’t being used. People were walking through the gates with their luggage and the police standing by didn’t seem to mind at all. Many people were looking at me, and I suddenly realized that this was again, one of those situations where I would need to act like I knew what I was doing. Teja walked away, asked me to wait, and stood in line somewhere. As I was standing there, a short old man with a long white beard came and stood right in front of me, staring. It didn’t really bother me.
I looked around, and focused on signs that I had no idea how to read, waiting for Teja. When he returned, he led me through the crowd and deeper into the station. I noticed many people staring at me. I kept my focus straight ahead, and didn’t look at anyone. It was very much like high school. We came to a stop in front of this room that was labeled something like “Prepaid A/C Waiting Area”. Teja suggested I wait inside. The way he spoke, it sounded like he wouldn’t be waiting with me. I was a little nervous. I had to admit, I had no idea where I needed to go or how to get there. He paid the men at the desk, I handed them my passport and then took a seat. Teja began giving me basic instructions. I said, “So… I guess you are going to leave now? You aren’t going to wait with me?” He explained that he had to work, but maybe he could tell I was nervous, because he went to talk to the men and came back to sit down beside me.
We were both pretty quiet, and watched TV the entire time. Well… Teja watched TV, I just sort of stared at it, listening to the Telugu language. An advertisement for KFC came on. Everything was in Telugu except the words “Juicy” and “Tangy”. Ahahaha 😀 I was definitely amused by that. Teja asked my about my adventures in India, and we had a conversation about my plans. We both realized the train was running late. I felt bad, since he was waiting with me.
About 20 minutes later, the train arrived: The Rajdhani Express. Teja got up and grabbed my bag and we made our way through the crowd. We walked quite a distance, when he suddenly stopped, back tracked a little, and entered the train car. I followed him inside. The aisle was small and there were beds to the left and right of me, with curtains drawn. My seat was at the very end and to the left. Three men and one woman were already sitting down. Teja shoved my bag under the seat, wished me a happy journey and left.
The train ride was uncomfortable. I had the top bed. There are 6 beds in each area. Three beds on each wall; Top, middle and bottom. The middle bed was folded up, so people could sit on the bottom bed during the day time. There was literally no more room for my backpack and purse, so I had to hold them the entire time. I was wondering how long I would have to hold them, and also knowing damn well that the top bed would NOT work out for me. The people I sat with did not understand me. The men serving food desperately tried to offer me food, and were frustrated when I declined. (I didn’t want to have an upset stomach on the train, either.) One man wasn’t seeming to understand. He spoke only Hindi and kept offering me food. I said, “No, thank you.” which soon became, “No, no…” which finally became “Nahi.” That’s when he finally got it, but it didn’t make him any happier to hear the word “No” in Hindi.
The old woman on the opposite side of the aisle was making fun of me for sitting so still. She kept calling me a statue, to the people I was sitting with. They all laughed, but the word “statue” was in English. I’m not sure she realized that. The people I was sitting with suddenly started talking in Hindi and English to each other, about me.
Asking why I wouldn’t eat, trying to figure out which bed was my bed and how it was amusing that I sat so still holding my bags. I was a bit irritated. I set my bags down on the empty space of the seat in front of me. I stretched, looked over at the girl in my group. Told her she could have the top bunk, told her I wasn’t eating because I didn’t want to risk getting sick on the train, and that this was only my second day in India. Her jaw dropped. I guess she didn’t expect that I could understand her. She must not have realized she was slipping into English words. She asked me if I wanted the bottom bed. I said, “Yes, if it’s okay with him,” and gestured toward the man who had the bottom bed. I then got up to use the bathroom; another adventure within itself. While I was up, I asked one of the train workers what time we would be arriving at Jhansi. He didn’t understand me, so I simply said: “Jhansi… Time?” I pointed at my wrist as if I had a watch. He said, “Jhansi?” I nodded. He said, “One.” and held his finger up. I thanked him.
When I returned, everyone was making their beds. I waited on the side, until I had enough space to do the same. I moved my bags off of the old man’s bed, and onto mine. I covered the seat with a sheet, unfolded the blanket provided, tossed the pillow on the side of the bed, and laid down on my backpack instead. I took my glasses off, set my alarm and closed my eyes. I just wanted this part to be over with. Before I could fall asleep, the train workers entered our room, turned the lights on and started asking people for money. They were speaking in Hindi, I didn’t know the acceptable protocol, so I didn’t give them any money. I hope that was the right thing to do, because I wasn’t sure. Everyone else gave them money though.
I finally fell asleep, and woke to my alarm about 3 hours later. When I saw the time, my heart started beating so fast… I was suddenly very nervous. The time had come to meet DN. I couldn’t calm myself. I put my glasses on, put my phone away, put my shoes on and gathered my luggage. I could feel the train slowing down. My heart was beating harder and harder. I stood up, walked to the aisle, and tapped a man standing in front of me, on the shoulder. He turned around. I said, “Jhansi?” He struggled to understand what I was asking, and then said, “Yes, Jhansi. You are getting off?” He seemed happy. I smiled and said, “Yes.”
When the train came to a stop, I made my way down the aisle with all of my bags. I couldn’t stop freaking out. Suddenly, someone was in my way. Maybe there was a line of people waiting to get off. I looked up and there he was, making his way to me… DN! I smiled and whispered something of a “Hi,” though I was still nervous. He smiled and turned around, leading the way. I followed him off of the train, but struggled with my bags. He helped me with my purse and one of the train workers grabbed my big bag.
Wow, there he was. DN! In the flesh! After 5-ish years of knowing each other, we finally met! ♥ We shook hands.
Before I knew what was happening, two men in red uniforms started fighting over who would carry my luggage for me. It was getting pretty serious. I looked at DN with confusion and amusement. Is this really happening?
I laughed. DN said something to them in Hindi, and the winner walked away, carrying my big bag on his head. DN led the way, and I followed him through the station. On our way out, there was a cow just chilling in the train station. Which isn’t unusual and not the first time I have seen a cow in India. DN said, “Welcome to India. See the cow?” I laughed. We passed a bunch of people sleeping on the floor inside of the station. He said, “See the Indian people?” I laughed again. We arrived at the car, DN paid the man carrying my bag, and I climbed in. DN climbed in on the other side, and his uncle took the passenger seat. Of course Jhansi looked nothing like what I imagined, but even better. We made small conversation on the way to the hotel. DN asked how I was feeling. Nervous and tired.
The drive was a very short drive. We entered the hotel, I filled out some paperwork and prepared to go to my room. I was instructed by DN’s uncle to come to the desk with my passport in the morning, but that I was free to rest for the night. We walked up the stairs and to my room. I set my stuff down, and DN sat down in the chair. Wow. Still all so… dream-like… DN’s uncle asked me if I would like some coffee or tea. I asked for tea. Me and DN talked and laughed for awhile about my adventures. He used his phone to call my mom, so I could let her know I was safe.
We had our tea, and then DN made his way home.