Travels in India - By The Book

Travels in India - By The Book

A Story by alanwgraham
"

A true story about the delights of Indian train journeys.

"

Travels in India


The trio of tales recounted are incidents from two trips to India. The first two from a 6 week tour with Mandy in 1983 and the third from a solo stopover in Delhi in 1994 on the way to visit a friend in Bhutan.


Doing it by the book!


We were traveling south from Delhi to Madras by train, a 36 hour trip. Mandy and I had treated ourselves to the luxury of a 2nd class air conditioned compartment. At night, the back of the seat folded up to form a comfy bunk. Meals were an adventure - the waiter took our order which was then telegraphed down the line and delivered at the next station. We invariably chose a vegetarian Thali which consisted of several curries, rice, chutney and chapattis served on a metal tray and which were always delicious. Flasks of tea and coffee were delivered on request.


The scenery was never dull and as the hours passed we couldn’t but grasp the vast size of India and its teeming populations. Opening our curtain in the morning the sight of numerous farm labourers squatting down in the fields to deliver their ‘night soil’ made us think how far we had become removed from basics.


Quite far south we arrived at a medium sized station and what immediately grabbed my attention was an area of shunting lines with a number of elderly steam locomotives.  This was 15 years after steam had disappeared from Britain and I was excited.

 ‘I’m going out to take some photos Mandy.’

‘Just make sure you don’t miss the train.’

 ‘Don’t worry,  I’ll be on the platform and I can hop back on.’


As I dismounted, I remembered what happened when we’d arrived in Kashmir by plane. The scenery was so stunning that I pulled out my camera and immediately three soldiers with guns surrounded us. ‘No photo’s Sir.’ I learned that any infrastructure such as transport, bridges, airport etc were of strategic importance and jealously watched over.

‘I'd better ask the guard if it’s OK.’ I thought.


‘Oh no Sir, the station is a controlled area. You’ll have to get permission.’ ‘Where?’  I asked. He thought for a moment. ‘Sir, go to the District Engineers Office at the end of the platform.’

I knocked on the door and a voice called me in. ‘I would like permission to take a few photos of the steam engines.’ His face clouded. ‘I’m very sorry sir, I do not have the required authority to give you permission. Apply, please, to the Deputy Station Master.’ I trotted along to the office and this time he came to the door. I repeated my request. No hesitation this time. ‘I don’t have the authority sir, please speak to the Locomotive Superintendent.’ You’ll find him two doors along.’ This time my, ‘thank you,’ had an edge. I had a bad feeling by now and it was confirmed. ‘I’m extremely full of apologies sir - I have no ..’  ‘Authority! Who has the authority?’ I barked at him. ‘The Station Master - in the main building below the station clock.’ He replied abjectly. I felt a bit ashamed of my loss of control and apologized.

 

By this stage I was getting that ‘singing in the rain’ feeling when you are soaked to the skin and then you can relish the downpour. This was becoming a journey into the bottomless depths of Indian bureaucracy and I realised that it came from us, the Raj. ‘I’ll enjoy this!’ I told myself firmly.


I knocked on the door below the clock (7 minutes till our train left). ‘Enter,’ issued from inside. Did I detect a note of authority? I entered to find around ten Indians engaged in a voluble discussion round a table. The talk stopped and they all turned to look at me. I plucked up courage and quickly explained my mission. ‘Just a few photos of the steam trains please.’ They immediately fell into heated discussion. After a few minutes the discussion stopped and the Station Master turned and addressed me. ‘I’m very sorry Sir but you will have to apply in writing to Madras and you will receive a written reply in ten days.’

I stood open mouthed then found my tongue. ‘But my train leaves in three minutes, goodbye gentlemen.’


I ran back to the train, quickly took a few photos of the steam trains and settled back into the compartment beside Mandy.

‘Did you get your photos Alan?’

‘Yes', I laughed, 'it’s a long story!’ .




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© 2019 alanwgraham


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Featured Review

P2: invariably everything is invariable! How boring is that? *just kiddin' ya!*
This is a great story about suffering thru bureaucracy. I always love your good-natured mix of observing the absurd with humor with a dash of one's authentic frustration. I do not know what this means: "I realised that it came from us, the Raj." I kinda knew this was leading up to some kind of written bullshit and a ten-day waiting period . . . it's always ten days, no matter what country is dishing out the bureaucracy. This is great & I can't wait to read the others (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie


Posted 6 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

6 Months Ago

Woops, thanks Margie - didn't spot that thanks. The sentence was too damn long! The Raj is the name .. read more
barleygirl

6 Months Ago

I kinda thought it must've had to do with colonialism! *wink! wink!*



Reviews

Ah Alan, I love reading your stories about mishaps or non-mishaps in India, a place I love. When I was there (several times) I would put my husband in a fake set photo and then quickly turn the camera slightly to get the photo I really wanted, most of the time it worked; yes the Indian people are used to strikes of all kinds;in addition, the bureaucracy is endless in everything tht government has to do with and that's just about everything!!! it's their life!! Great story!

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

1 Month Ago

Thanks Betty. I've tried that trick once or twice myself! These old travel memories are an easy opti.. read more
Betty Hermelee

1 Month Ago

Thank you, doing my best!
This tale makes the idiom memorable! Well, Alan you had to make sure it was not possible to do it by the book before you let yourself just do it. There is no book for some things, hmm. Maybe you were writing that one while in your little pursuit. Maybe this is how it is when aboriginal requests are made.
So, as the tale begins with description of the journey, the compartment, meal system, scenery out the window- it feeds the senses with precise detail, imagery and even some philosophy. The telegraph system and the steam engine quite bring a feel of time travel, like glancing inside history. My favorite bit is the part with the singing in the rain simile. With the dialogues you get the emotions across like playing the piano right, the rise and fall of the frustration, but Mandy's parts were the best, caring and like the one person on the scene that knew some book.

Posted 4 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

1 Month Ago

I got quite a shock when I saw i had missed your reply Rana. I'm usually careful to sent thanks as I.. read more
Oh my, you really are a rebellious upstart. Permission to take photos? We don't need no stinkin' permission! Ha! Don't you just love DUMB rules? Reminds me of the military. Kidding aside, I loved this little Indian excursion. Hopefully, there were no such rules governing mountains and clouds.

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

5 Months Ago

Thanks Sam. That was good fun as I wasn't too fussed about the photos. You are right about the mount.. read more
It is truly amazing what us humans have achieved in our short time as top dog in this crazy planet of hours. We invented the combustion engine, flight, space travel and at least fourteen other things since we first came across thought... But there is still absolutely sod all squared we can do about beauroc... Beauocri.... Red tape getting in the way of the simplest of requests. It's enough to make you want to run away, obviously to India.
I always feel so vanilla with my mostly european travails, when i hear of such exotic and care free flair for adventures, which have since sadly demised, suffocated to extinction, on red bloody tape no doubt 😀
Although your tale pre-empts Mr Bean, in my mind this is like an as previously unseen, lost episode. You should sue 😀

Posted 6 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

6 Months Ago

Ta lorry, At least I got the photies and this story out of it. I'll look for more Mr Bean stories! D.. read more
P2: invariably everything is invariable! How boring is that? *just kiddin' ya!*
This is a great story about suffering thru bureaucracy. I always love your good-natured mix of observing the absurd with humor with a dash of one's authentic frustration. I do not know what this means: "I realised that it came from us, the Raj." I kinda knew this was leading up to some kind of written bullshit and a ten-day waiting period . . . it's always ten days, no matter what country is dishing out the bureaucracy. This is great & I can't wait to read the others (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie


Posted 6 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

6 Months Ago

Woops, thanks Margie - didn't spot that thanks. The sentence was too damn long! The Raj is the name .. read more
barleygirl

6 Months Ago

I kinda thought it must've had to do with colonialism! *wink! wink!*

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Added on November 23, 2019
Last Updated on November 26, 2019

Author

alanwgraham
alanwgraham

Scotland, United Kingdom



About
Married with three kids, I retired early from teaching physics but have always enjoyed mountains. In my forties I experienced a manic episode which kick-started a creative urge. I've written a novel .. more..

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