Обновлено: 10 дек. 2018 г.
My train was four hours late. I had plenty of time, my gigantic suitcase and a long way over a staircase to the right platform. I asked Indian men for help, but they pretended they didn’t understand me. I thought I was strong enough and did it by myself, though it was a hard powerlifting competition for me. I tried to use all my knowledge about human anatomy and physics laws to do it. And I did - I carried 22 kilos upstairs and then downstairs. I learned the lesson to never take yoga props and books with me again!
When I reached my platform, I was exhausted. I laid down on a bench and looked up at the shabby ceiling of the station. It’s amazing how Indian train stations resemble Russian, remove all palm trees and it will be my native surroundings. I stretched on a bench and relaxed. I felt an annoying pain in my abdomen and didn’t want to move, instead observing my breath and watching insect life above me.
After a short slumber, I got up and looked around, the platform was still empty except for one Indian girl. She was very friendly and told me she loves Jesus. We chatted for a while before her friends, two strong middle-aged women, joined us. Both of them were English teachers and also Christians, leading to endless conversations about Christianity in Indian culture. Time flew!
Finally, the train arrived like a black monster slitting through the twilight. In seconds, the platform was flooded with people. The women took my hands, my suitcase and said ‘be quick and don’t worry!’ They were so strong, easily putting my suitcase onto the train. Just after boarding, the train started - I don’t know how we managed to get on the train in time!
The coach was very crowded, just like Moscow suburban trains in rush hours, only we don’t have so many fans in our coaches. The women helped me to fit my suitcase into the corridor between two coaches, then made a circle around me and said to men not to stare at me. They were like guardian angels.
One women asked me:
- Do you know karate?
- Yes! Or any other martial art. Do you?
- No, I don’t. I do only yoga.
- Yoga can’t help you in India. If you’re a woman, you have to know how to protect yourself.
- Do you all know karate?
- No, but we never travel alone! And our husbands will meet us at the station.
They became worried about me, as if I couldn't fight, I couldn't travel alone. Certainly, they couldn’t leave me on a train station. They were deep in thought for a while. Two of them had some urgent business and couldn’t help, then a girl called her mother and she came to meet us. It was so sweet! We came into Trivandrum train station at night. It was very busy, dark, red lights and iron faces of old engines. I was ready to die as I didn’t have my camera. I always liked trains.
The girl’s mother took us to a bus station, then stayed with me while her daughter looked for a right bus. There was another delay, but they didn’t want to leave me. Mother said:
- We will find you a rickshaw
- But it’s a long distance! It will be too expensive for me
- No, no. We will find a good rickshaw.
The first two rickshaws weren’t good enough, but they found one who agreed to take me to my place for just 100 rupees, which was very cheap! They always try to cheat and I was worried to go with this guy, but they said ‘don’t worry, don’t worry! It’s a good rickshaw’, so I trusted them.
I sat into the cabin and saw a little doll of Saint Mary on the dashboard, complete with electric lights and flowers. I went into the darkness with this luminous, blinking scene in front of me, still worrying about my safety for a while. But eventually, I relaxed, looked at Saint Mary and fell into a slumber. Occasionally, I opened my eyes and saw cows, dogs, Jesus, Shiva, red hammer and sickle, poor people, rich people... everything merged in one surrealistic dream. I woke up when we reached the door of my new couchsurfing host.
My rickshaw man took the promised 100 rupees and wished me good luck. New people opened their doors for me and the next chapter of my Indian life began.
(This story was initially written in 2014 during my couchsurfing travels in India - I edited and rewrote it today)