My journeys are fascinating. Indeed. But this mother bitch of a ride, a full hardcore 39 hours over two nights on a sleeper train tops all my previous adventures on Indian public transport. Delhi to Goa in sleeper class. My stomach is responding well to the antibiotics and the stinky Himalayan black salt. No shits, no stomach pains and my digestive system is producing firm stools. Palolem is my desired destination, a tranquil beach to recuperate is on the cards. But first of all, the mother of all train journeys, 39 hours and some.
Words can’t describe the roller coaster of emotions you go through whilst trapped in sleeper class for 39 hours so this is my attempt using the little vocabulary I have.
The people I met and got to know made the trip what it was. There was a lovely Indian family consisting of three women and two teenagers, both were highly educated and spoke eloquent English. There was a feisty Indian male from Varanasi and his French girlfriend, an extremely diplomatic Swedish gent and a retired racist Greek guy who lives in Australia and holds a Danish passport. These people stayed with me for the duration of the journey in our little sleeper class compartment.
The Greek guy called Theodore was the highlight, without even knowing it he brought us all together. He was rude, ignorant and racist, to the extreme (spot the racist!). He enjoyed bringing up conversations that were controversial and he often started arguments with the natives. He decided to tell the lovely and generous Indians on the train …
1.) how disgusting their country was
2.) how lazy they all are
3.) how inefficient the Indian railways are
4.) how Europe doesn’t want Indians visiting their countries
5.) how unorganised the entire country is
6.) their spoken English is terrible
7.) all Indians are thieving and dishonest
8.) all Indian men are perverts
9.) he would never allow his daughter to marry an Indian man due to reasons 1 to 8
As you can already imagine, Theodore was a real charmer. He hated everything and everyone. He also picked on the Israeli’s, the Russians and the English got a trashing too. He wouldn’t allow anyone to sit on a seat they didn’t have a ticket for. No love for the waiting list ticket holders. He had no love for anyone and the feeling was mutual.
Marish, a tourist worker from Varanasi, was at first appalled by Theodore, then he got angry. I thought he was going to kill him at one point, we all had to intervene. He soon calmed down and proceeded to mock Theo, pretending not to understand anything Theo was attempting to communicate, because all Indians are thick aren’t they?! Marish knew how to stir things up, a cheeky wink every now and then signalling me to join in kept the mocking flowing from all angles.
The Indian family were at first shocked too but soon warmed to annoying Theodore with huge helpings of sarcasm. The young teenage boys learning how to ignore the hatred coming from Theodore’s mouth and took to teasing him instead. Their mothers were calm and polite behind their gritted teeth, every time Theo verbally abused them.
The Swedish guy, Dennis, was the diplomatic good guy who kept the peace. But even he, after a while, started to loath the racist old Greek.
Once Theo had settled in and first started his rants and racist slurs against the Indian population we could all feel the tension. I repeated to the carriage that although he was sat next to me, I didn’t know who he was and I was not affiliated with him in any way. Got to protect your neck in these situations.
Marish and the Indian family were witty and funny. I cried with laughter at their jokes and I joined in taunting the disturbed Theo.
The young teenagers educated us all about Indian history and recent politics over several games of chess. The young lad Gaurang was in tears when we said our goodbyes. I’m certain he will grow up to be Prime Minister one day. He was intelligent, well spoken and had a mature head on his shoulders. He talked and explained things like a man with power.
The journey continued without them and Theo was still up to his old tricks. Racist twat. He started to irritate me. I lost my cool a few times, giving him some honest and well delivered home truths. Why come to India if you hate it? This country is different from Europe, this is why I came here, to witness a different culture and their way of life. Mr Theo, you are a disgrace. Grow the fuck up.
This whole situation can’t be right. Surely someone was setting this up, surely this Theo fella was an actor and we were on some bizarre wind up TV show prank. Alas no, he is just a sad old deluded man. At the ripe old age of 70 plus there’s no hope in educating him now. I hope, for his families sake, that he survives his trip with no harm. If he was younger I’m sure he would have been chucked off the train with a black eye and a fat lip.
This epic trip concluded in the early hours at Mardgao station. Palolem is calling. Just two short journeys through the lush green tropical land of Goa and I’m in shantiville. Sun, sea, sand and girls in bikinis.