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Low Budget Travelling

A Train Ride In India

We were four friends. The time came for us to take a trip to the Northern part of India. For this, we traveled to Calcutta and booked berths on the famous Toofan Express. This train leaves out of Howrah Station and delivers passengers to Mathura Junction within 36 hours.

We traveled by three-tier class. Tiers are bunks. Just know that the more tiers you have, the less breathing room there is. In a three-tier setting, you can’t even sit up in your bed. Your neighbor’s tier is approximately 18 inches from your nose. That middle tier comes down during the day to become everyone’s back rest. The top-tier holds luggage. At night, passengers have to adjust everything for sleeping.

And it makes sense too. Three-tier will sleep more passengers. I later learned that A/C two-tier is the way to go. Kind of like business class on a plane, more room. But before learning the reality, three-tier sounded like something fancy from the British Raj era. Wow, three-tier!

One word of advice, if certain sights and smells would upset your sensitivities, don’t ever do three-tier travel:

Sleepy passengers walking the aisles in quest of bathrooms.

Brushing their teeth with foam dripping from their mouths.

The morning cabin reeking of cigarette smoke and mouthwash.

So here I was, traveling in my light pink, tissue sari, enjoying the hilarious array of selling voices piercing the air. Free comedy every second would be the argument in favor of the trip. Bring locks though. Our luggage was lifted the first night while sleeping. We didn’t realize the iron rings welded to the train floors were meant for securing baggage. And I had just spent a lot of money on beautiful cloth. Gone just like that!

Anyway, shortly after the journey began, two new passengers joined our compartment. They were two men somewhere in their early thirties. One was just as fat as the other one was skinny.

I didn’t take much notice of them at first. But as time went on, I understood they were trying to please me. Every vendor that came through our car found a customer in them. Whether toys, tea, fruit, sweets, combs, cold drinks, or anything else, they would buy it for me.

I would sometimes sit with my eyes closed. Upon opening them, I’d find a new array of goods lining my windowsill. I repeatedly motioned that I don’t drink tea, couldn’t eat the food, or use the toys. I never encouraged them, but they refused to be discouraged.

Finally night came. It was time to shift from sitting to sleeping. I got the top bunk along the outer aisle. The skinny man got the bunk under mine. Even on three-tier class, aisle bunks are always two-tier but narrower than inner berths. I soon fell asleep.

When morning dawned, I noticed the fat man was already up having his tea. He was sitting on the bottom bunk just across from his sleeping friend. I slowly sat up on my bunk thinking of a way to get to the bathroom. Climbing down would be awkward with the skinny man still asleep underneath.

Seeing the situation, the fat man’s massive wrist suddenly moved towards his sleeping friend’s collar. With the cloth grasped in his massive hand, he lifted him right up. The skinny man awoke to find himself sitting.

They were always laughing and happy. Though excruciatingly long, the journey was outright entertaining. And no one could stop laughing at the antics of these two.