eliot & drew bike through india for 3 months, trying to inconspicuously do some good in the world.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Iron Horse

we found our seats and stored are bags. sleeper class on indian trains works like this: you get assigned a berth, say S9 (S for sleeper, dummy). that's your car. then you find your seat which is a number in a sequence of 8 (say, 21-29) and a letter: U for upper, M for Middle, L for lower. moving towards the front of the train on any car, you will see two seats facing each other on your right. these are the last numbers in the sequence: 27U and 28L in our example. to the left you will see two benches with seats and backs, and above them luggage racks. closer inspection will reveal that the seat is 21L and 24L, the backs 22M and 25M and the luggage racks 23U and 26U. yup, those are your beds, suspended from the ceiling by chains when you muster enough faith and fatigue to feel the need to climb into one.

we were seat with an indian couple on our left, next to the windows. they had the lower berths. the man spent the whole ride (16 hours by the end of it) in silence except while sleeping, when he became the loudest snorer i have ever heard in my entire life. his wife, opposite him slept under a thin blanket, waking occasionally to summon massive phlegm from some unknown gland and fire it out the window with a churlish hack. as this is all you need to know about these two, we will leave them and turn to the upper bunks (the middle bunks belonged to me and eliot). above me was a hand drum and a few bags belonging to a skinny british kid with an a-shirt on and long bleach-blond dreads. he said little the whole train ride, preferring to sit in the doorway of the car and watch the scenery go by. seemed nice enough, if a little spacy.  the remaining bunk belonged to a blond-haired, blue-eyed young woman named Maria.

in no time flat, Maria, Eliot and I were sharing nut desserts from Goa, pepsi with whiskey and stories. Mostly Maria talked and we listened. boy did we listen. She is Ukrainian, having come to india some time ago to participate in a yoga seminar or some such thing. her estranged husband followed her here and after some difficultly, the found one another and attended an ashram together. the place opened Maria's eyes and allowed her to experience "a higher love" (her words, not mine Steve Winwood fans) which left her euphoric. the ashram grew cultish and wanted her and her husband to stay so they fled in the night with ashram members chasing them. later, they met with some russian-speaking travelers and made friends. Maria soon fell in love with one of them and ditched her husband (remember, they were already seperated) for this new fella. they were madly in love and travelled around for some time. she ended up in Goa at one point, while he travelled to Bangalore to participate in a Sai ashram. suddenly, communication became sparse and cryptic. convinced he had been taken in by money-grubbing, energy draining cult members, she bought the first ticket the Bangalore! She paused here to recount a russian fairy tale that closely paralleled her own story. 

we spent much of the remaining train ride talking and eating with Maria. she grew tired and slept while eliot and i continued eating and talking. in time, we too lowered our bunks and i read for some time STUPIDLY LEAVING MY BIKE LIGHT ON THE BUS ARRRRGGGHHHH. actually slept pretty well, thanks to my ear plugs and eye mask and awoke before the sun to gather my bags together. about 6:30 am we pulled into the station in Bangalore. Maria, dejected since receiving a message that her love was in Pondicherry now, had breakfast with us and went on a quest for a hotel, a train ticket and some closure. we ate and began our bicycle trip through the traffic of bangalore to try and find Danny and Sayo, friends of the Good Dr. "The Mighty" Boosh Thomas, who had kindly offered up his home to us to stay in when i spoke with him at the hospice i was working for in san antonio.

with much starting and stoppping, not to mention direction-asking, we found exserviceman's colony, near 6th cross road and approached the gated house, unsure of what our accommodations would be, but grateful after the 16 hour train ride to have a place to rest.

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