India – Kolkata

Today we have woken up very early to see the magical sunset in Varanasi, so by evening time we are quite tired. Our great host kindly lets us use an empty room to rest for a while before going to the station. Our train to Kolkata leaves at 22:00. That is, supposedly.

When we arrive at the station, the panel shows a delay of 2 hours, leaving at 00:00. It’s a bummer, but at least we will have some time for dinner. There are tons of people seating on the floor of the platform (many more than usual); entire families lie on top of some kind of blanket or cloth, boxes and bags of food in the center. We walk along the back side to pass inadvertently, but still everyone is looking at us!

There is a waiting room for A/C class and we go check it out. It is calm and warm inside, and we take a couple of empty seats. Some chairs farther there is a foreign guy traveling with an Indian friend of his, and they start talking to another foreign family who arrive a while afterwards. We have a new update: The train has been delayed for another hour, to 1:00. We end up talking to all these kind strangers. The married couple are from the US (she) and Mexico (him), and they brought their teenage daughter with them. He is a doctor specialized in treating patients through natural ingredients and vegan diets, which is really interesting. In two weeks they will have gone to roughly 5 countries and 3 continents. That is crazy travel! The other guy is from Germany and he and his friend are also taking the same train we are.

The A/C waiting room.

The A/C waiting room.

The waiting room starts to fill up more and more. Sometime later, news is the train is delayed another 2 hours, at approximately 3:00 and the chairs start to feel more and more suitable for a nap. However, the traffic in this station must be huge, because the announcements through the speakers don’t stop for even 1 minute and it is hard to sleep. Each train arrival is announced 3 times in Bengali, 3 times in Hindi, and 3 times in English with Windows 95 sounds: “Tee-teeeeen… May I have your attention, please. Train number X-X-X-X, ___, from ____ is arriving shortly to platform ___. All passengers, please proceed to the appropriate platform. Thank you. Tee-teeeen.”

When the wait is supposed to come to an end, we get news the train will not arrive until 5:00 am. Someone comments this is kind of common in Varanasi because the fog is so intense no trains can circulate. By now it is scary looking at the digital panes, because the more we look, the longer is the delay. Later on, someone says the new ETA is 6:00. Then 6:10… After a while the arrival time remains the same so we are hopeful. In vain. 7:00 am. We leave the waiting room at 6:50 and wait at the platform until 7:20, when, at last, for the grace of the rail gods, we enter our assigned coach, place our sheets and sleep soundly despite the start of the day for the other passengers at the rhythm of the “chAAAI, cOOOfi, chAAI, cOFI” announcements of the vendors along the train alley.

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