CraSh Williams' Blog

Monsoons, Trains and Autorickshaws

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on August 26, 2011

We needed to get out of Chandigarh, a cool city but just too clean and unlike the rest of India – where were the cows wandering the streets and hoards of dogs who always seem to be asleep in the middle of the road? The general grime and humanity which seems to characterise every big city in India?

Grabbing the 7am train to Delhi, we settled in for the ride (3rd CAR AC) back to the big bad city.

One of the things I love about Indian trains is the total disregard of health and safety – during one of our recent journeys there was an electrical fire at the end of our carriage, smoke billowing out with no-one seeming overly bothered. The guard merely passed by carrying a tool kit from which he took a pair of wire cutters and to rectify the problem set about cutting as many wires as possible! To clear the smoke he opened the door of the moving train, leaving it open for any Tom, Dick or Ravi to fall out of!

Realising I could open the door has seen me spending several hours hanging out of trains whilst blasting though the Indian countryside, the wind in my face whilst enjoying the ride. Pulling into Delhi was memorable – slums are built right up to the edge of the railway line, some slums are a couple of KMs in length with families’, children, chickens, cows and goats all living immediately adjacent to the railway line. Being stood at the door you do get a much differing view from being behind double glazing enjoying the coolness of double glazing; children waving and smiling, old ladies going about their daily lives cooking, washing clothes, chatting and laughing with friends, young boys flying kites and the old bold man, sat staring at you whilst curling out a log whilst grinning!

Sometimes the train will stop and several people take the opportunity to jump aboard selling chai, offering pakoras or in once case carrying about thirty books for sale, all trying for a quick sale before the trains sets off. After being in the well-ordered (if somewhat boring) Chandigarh, (the Milton Keynes of India,) New Delhi Railway Station comes as a shock. On leaving the train it’s a case of following the person in front and making your way to the exit, you’re either in a team of people going one way or there’s a team of people coming at you, it’s chaos albeit in an Indian kind of way – it just works and eventually you’re disgorged from the train station.

Being monsoon it can rain at any time and as we stepped out of the station we were immediately hit by a very large spot of rain – the sky darkened, everyone became a little furtive, it was about to rain and rain hard. Most of the time we’d spend a good 10/15 minutes arguing with auto drivers as on seeing me the fare quoted is usually double the price a local would pay – we always end up paying Gora Tax (gora meaning fair-skinned or indeed honky!)

Jumping in the first auto we could find and dumping our bags in the bag the skies opened and it properly pissed it down, not just any rain this was of biblical proportions and even though we had a door on one side of the auto – both of us pressed up in the corner within ten minutes we were soaked through. Within twelve minutes the roads were flooded due to the storm drains being unable to cope with such quantities of water in such a short space of time.

Our auto, with no functioning windscreen wipers nor any grip on his tyres (auto drivers seem to prefer the slick look of Formula 1) ploughed on – though was constantly stalling due to water entering his engine. On one stretch of road we were pulled over whilst the driver was trying to restart the engine. With visibility down to 20 yards cars, buses and trucks were hurtling passed us – almost at full speed, throwing water over and into our auto and aqua-planing through huge puddles covering the road – it was actually quite scary and not being able to see behind due to our bags and no windows you’re constantly braced for someone to come sailing (sorry) straight into the back of you!

Eventually we arrived at our destination to be greeted by hot cups of sweet chai and plates of dhal and rice – home cooking at its very best. We stripped out of our wet clothes and sat down to enjoy the great food.


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