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Taking Indian Sleeper Trains and getting an accidental tour of the railway slums

Sleeper Trains in India: panorama of indian slums near the railways

Tonight I’m taking the overnight sleeper train from Jodhpur to Delhi.

Shahi Palace had their driver take me, Margaret and Dan to the train station in Jodhpur. We’re all a bit tense knowing that we’ll need to deal with the scam tour agency when we get back to Delhi.

Regina stayed behind to stay a few extra nights in Jaisalmer. When we go to Nepal, she’ll stay back in India and follow a different route. Likely, we’ll eventually meet her again at some point.

 

Indian Train bathrooms and using a female urinary device

We didn’t see any of the blue architecture of Jodphur city, but arrived just in time to settle into our station and to use the bathroom. The station station bathroom was nasty. Mosquitoes and flies buzzing, the smell was so bad my eyes wanted to tear. It doesn’t matter if it’s a train bathroom or not. Public bathrooms in India are what I wish I could avoid.

Oh these Indian toilets slay me. There was no way I’d drop pants in this environment. So I was forced to bring out my new travel weapon– The Freshette!

What is the Freshette? It’s a female urinary device.

Basically, it’s a cup with a spout allowing women to pee, standing up like a man. If you do it just right, you don’t even have to take off your pants.  Anyways, it was a weird feeling at first. It felt so wrong to cross Adam, but overall the Freshette is a genius female device. I could probably write my name in urine standing up but the greatest aspect of it is, I don’t have to expose my butt to the scary hole. Don’t have to risk peeing on my shoe. I’m grateful to the inventor!

I hopped aboard the Mandore Superfast Express train (schedule here)

Finally,  public transportation!  Ahhh…

The Indian train is like one long metal can on wheels. It’s old, it’s seen many journeys but it keeps going. Riding on it, I could finally meet and talk with Indian locals, not just the ones we pay on our tour!

The train bathroom has squat toilets and there’s an unheavenly odor which makes you want to avoid them. There’s western toilets too, but you don’t really want to sit on them. Again, the Freshette comes in handy.

indian trains
Indian Train etiquette

•  When you start out in daylight, all the bunk beds are folded up and you just have the two rows of seats (photo above).  Everyone sits, according to their ticketed assigned seats.

•  Your backpack should fit under your seat but this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes your cabin mates bring too many bags and thus, your backpack is best stored on your berth when you sleep.

•  Then, there is a time when the people in the cabin all decide to eat. Food vendors on the train periodically go around selling food, but most locals seem to bring their own food.

•  Later in the evening, there is a silent agreement among your “cabin mates” that it is sleep time. Everyone pulls down their bunk and sets up their beds. Margaret and I wiped ours down with baby wipes.

india me

Brushing your teeth after dinner

Getting ready for bed

Obviously, you don’t want to use the water in the trains to brush your teeth. Instead, Dentist Dan offers us an interesting travel toothbrush. It’s a fingerpad with toothpaste in the fabric. Your saliva activates the paste. This is better than what I’ve seen some local Indians use… twigs!

The sleeper train compartments house six fold-up berth beds (bottom, mid, top on both sides).

After dropping my berth, wiping it down and throwing a silk liner on it, I couldn’t sleep immediately. This was my first time riding on a train and sleeping on one. My excitement kept me awake.

indian trains

Warm air rushed into the cabin from our gated window, while fans above circulated the warmth around.  I split my time between looking out the window (it was near my head) and watching some Bollywood music videos on my iPod. A boy, who was sleeping in the middle bunk across of me, recognized one of the Bollywood music videos that I was playing. It was a light and romantic musical scene  between Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan in the movie, Guru. He leaned over and watched some of it with me.

Slums on the side of the Indian railways

When I arose in the morning, Indian life had already awoken outside.

The slums of the poor line the railway tracks in a long procession. They stretch out further than my eye can see. Shack housing stretched out for miles!

Most of these people are going through morning routines: brushing teeth with the twigs from a tree, bathing with buckets of water taken from a community faucet, doing ritual yoga sun salutations, or… taking a squat dump by the side of the train tracks.

train Morning

From the train in the morning. (Above) Folks doing their morning rituals; (Below) Oops!.. Men taking the morning dump away from their homes.

 

Yeah… squat dump!  Men are walking to and from along the train tracks… I think it’s to do their morning business.  Sometimes, you see a procession of men squatting with their pants around their ankles, spaced out and behind bushes or even in plain sight.

  You don’t see any tissues.

Most houses don’t boast much, neither a bathroom nor running water. There’s a public facet which everyone shares.

indian railway homesTrack houses run one long procession…

 Arriving at  New Delhi station

The crowd gets off. Bags, boxes, luggage are unloaded. There are red-suited porters for hire. They offer to carry your luggage out of the train station for a fee. Many of them can carry the suitcases of an entire family, balancing bags on their heads like blocks, while another hand carries a bag or two more! If it’s a large family, sometimes two porters are required.

indian train portersMen unloading cargo
Porters to help you carry your bags

indian porter charges

no spitting “No spitting” rule refers to the beetel nut Indian men like to chew on. It’s like tobacco and when they spit it, it leaves a red stain.

delhi station

Outside New Delhi station

 

Information on Indian train travel:

India Railways (website)
Seat 61 info on India train travel (website

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