After ten hours of a delay, the train has finally arrived. Everyone is crowding platform 3 and she grabs her suitcase and travel bag and begins chasing the train cart labeled S9.
She enters her cabin. A small compartment with two benches face each other, two ladders on either side leading to the upper bunks, while another bunk bench lies perpendicular from the two, and a small walk way separates the three bench formation. Her seat number is the bottom bunk, but she grabs her suit case, stuffs t under the seat, and proceeds to climb the ladder to the top bunk. Here, she can relax. Here, she can see everything below her and around her. Here, she is safe.
By the time they all boarded it was late night. She tries to fall asleep but vaguely remembers dreams of giant trees, secret family duelings and her feet freezing. Early in the morning, the train is rocking and everyone is up and about, making all kinds of noise. She looks to her left, her nieghbor bunk mates are three Russians. Two women and a man with only facial hair and not a smile to crack. Typical, she tells herself. They’re all still asleep, she looks at her watch and it reads 7:32, too early. She rolls back and covers her face, more sleep.
When she finally wakes up again, it is about 10 and one of the Russian girls are still sleeping. She grabs her bathroom toiletries, climbs down her ladder and heads to the washroom. As she passes the other compartments, she’s met with many stares and many men. It doesn’t frighten her, just annoys her. Have they never seen a women before? Four small bathrooms face each other, one of them is western with an actual toilet. She ops for the squatter. Inside she begins brushing her teeth, washing her face and combing her hair. Three days without a shower is nothing for a girl who’s lived in Morocco. Clean she tells herself. No cold water to refresh her soul.
She gets out of the bathroom and walks down the path of stares to her bunk. She throws her toiletries down, and grabs her passport and cell phone. After tucking it into her waist, she peeks at her bunk mates, one Russian still asleep, the others are sitting, and the Indians below her bunk are up and talking. They all had their formalities last night and continue to talk this morning. She wants nothing of it. After spending three weeks working in the Clinic, being surronded by people, and living with house mates, she wants anything but to talk to people. She doesn’t understand it. Are people naturally inclined to talk to each other?
Just because conversation isn’t immediate and friendships aren’t established, doesn’t mean it must be. I leave the mates and head towards the back of the train. Compartment by compartment, cart by cart, I see families dotted here and there, suitcases stashed in every nook and cranny, feet bare and naked and stares. Always the stares. She decides not to play this time. Too many to focus on just one. Between each train cart are the entrances and exits, one open metal door revealing the fast fleeting scenery outside. Mountains, trees, grasslands and plains. The doorway is obscured by someone either standing or sitting. I continue down the carts until I can find an empty one where I can sit and let my feet dangle.
Images. Images of barren fields absorbed of their nutrients and images of rich, lucisous, green life. Images of sun kissed, black bodies bent over plants picking endlessly. Images of women wrapped in garments from head to toe, balancing bunches of branches on their single small head. They walk and they work. Images of cattle, both cows and goats and dogs, working as well. Various fields lie adjacent to each other. Some squares of land contain plants sprouting in water, while other lands show rows of seedlings growing tall not yet strong though. These are the farmers. These are our farmers. Theese are the fruits and vegetables labeled “imported from India” that stock the supermarkets in first world countries. These are the farmers that work endlessly, feeding nations yet making just enough to feed their own families. I sit and I watch the fields grow what will stock my pantry at home. How much profit will this farmer receive for his life’s work? How much profit do companies make off small family farmers like himself? I look at the fields and the farmers and the hot sun and the green lucisous fields, endless with life yet dying from exploitation. I understand.
Hours pass and more hours can pass but I decide to get up and continue my journey throughout the back of the train. Today I will explore the back, tomorrow I will explore the front. After looping through obstacles of feet, bodies, suitcases, tight spaces and many more stares, I make it to the back. Nothing but a locked door and a panel with lights. Turning back, I head back to my bunk, navigating once again as seamlessly as before. It’s about 1700 at this point, dinner time calls. Several of the train attendants pass back and forth, yelling out their offerings of chai and coffee, Momsa and chapti, lunches and dinners. I stop one of them and ask for a lunch. He hands me tray of rice, potatoes, chapti, Dal, and a spicy lentil curry. After nearly swallowing half of the meal, I save the other half for later that night. I open my wallet and count the few bills I have left in my wallet, 360 Rupees. With each meal being about 100, I decide to make this last. The plastic money in the pocket of my wallet is useless and the American cash hiding in my bag will do no good. My destination is Kerala yet the exact place is unknown. No reserved hotel, no Andreas to call a Tuk-Tuk, just Kerala. Without wifi or anyway to search for information, I send out messages for help. What some would consider God, or a higher power, I call the Universe. The universe hears me and somehow, someone will help me. The people around me are out here for a reason. One of them will help me and I will figure out exactly what to do. Turning over, I slump to my side and figure the task for later hoping my stomachs won’t hate me too much.