22 Carriages (or bogies as they are called here) passed us as we stood on Varanasi station. The end of the now stationary train stretched down the platform as far as I could see, it was huge. On asking we discovered that out bogie, A1, was directly after the engine so we started the slog up the platform to the front. The train had arrived at the station in a majestic slow motion, the train being so long and heavy it takes a time to slow and stop. The last 5 minutes into the station are at about 6 miles an hour. the stop itself is so slow there is no jolt at the end. We were sharing a bogie with a Japanese tour, their Indian guide and a lovely young English couple called Hannah and Joe. The various areas being separated by curtains. Hannah is a Primary School teacher, Joe is a photographer who has done a lot of red carpet stuff and pictures for Hello Magazine. He is also a world class Trials cyclist who had a spot in the opening ceremony for the Olympics until the program overran and they pulled his slot the day before the ceremony. They had been traveling for 7 months and were now reaching the end and a return to the UK was looming. In addition to them being a lovely couple it was good to be able to talk to other people about the experience of India and especially Varanasi. Hannah felt that India is the only place they found difficult and also found it hard to reconcile the spiritual with the way things were left to rot where they were. They, like us also felt that you also had to be on your guard all the time and that was very tiring. They too had gone on a boat trip on the Ganges, during which a bloated body floated past them. They asked the boatman what would happen to it. He said “ It will be washed onto the bank and the cows will eat it. Personally I think that it’s overly optimistic to expect it only to be eaten by the cow, a Holy animal, I think the dogs and the Kites, crows and other birds will do their bit too. A short while later a soldier came in with a gun and a bit of plastic covered paper. I am sure he would have had a plastic torch somewhere, but as the lights were working we did not see it. The plastic covered paper said that we should not accept drinks or food from strangers as it could be drugged. It also gave a long list of phone numbers we should use under specific circumstances. Once we had read the bit of paper he took it away before we could memorise, or write down any of the phone numbers. At the next station several men came onto the train with the food that passengers had ordered through India Rail. All the food delivers were strangers to us. They had no uniform or identification. No one seemed at all worried despite the fact that they fell into the category of people we should not accept food or drink from. There is a thing about the way you are given information in India. There is always a bit missing. A good example is that in the UK you will get a sign on a road that says something like “No unauthorised vehicles beyond this point” That is clear and its easy to work out what it means. I would think “ you need authorisation to go beyond this point. Do I have authorisation? Its a clear yes or no. I would know how the sign affected me specifically. In india the equivalent sign says “ Prohibited vehicles are prohibited” It does not actually mean anything unless you have a list of prohibited vehicles. Thats what its like, there is always a key bit missing. Anyway we were not drugged or poisoned. There was no need. Someone slipped through the curtains during the night and stole Jo’s day rucksack complete with her iPhone, camera and some clothes. Not a soldier, gun or guard in sight. I did a quick walk along the carriages to see if i could see someone with lots of suspicious luggage. Well that included everyone really, but there was no one without a bunk and no one wondering the carriages (except for this pissed off Englishman) I did discover though that I could only get along the first 7 bogies before getting to a shutter that was pulled down and padlocked. It seems this was the tourist section of the train where seats are reserved specifically for tourists as the rest of the seats book up months in advance. Very helpful idea, I expect there is a sign on the outside of the bogie that says “rob here”. I suspect thats why we had so many guards, ticket inspectors and soldiers with Metal guns and plastic torches. When I found the ticket inspector and told him what had happened nothing was too much trouble. Thats not a figure of speech its a factual statement. Doing nothing was still too much trouble. No one wanted to know. At one stage we had 5 staff around us, none of which was willing to do anything or able to give us any information. It was the Indian guide for the Japanese tour group that was our salvation. Two members of his group had been robbed as well, One had lost a small bag and some money, the other had lost their main suitcase. The guide was mortified. He said “ I have been showing them India and saying how good it is, telling them about the importance of family and and what a nice place India is, then this happens.” He told us that there was a small police station at Agra Fort Station (where we were all getting off) and that we should go there and report the theft and they would give us a number. Much of the rest of the night was taken up by having the phone blocked, phoning home and trying to use “find my phone” and finally admitting defeat and having the phone wiped and blacklisted. After a few hours of sleep spoilt by dreaming of revenge we began to pull in to Agra. The train slowed to its majestically arrival pace as we went through the farmlands on the outskirts of the city. The sun was beginning to rise. I don’t know what it is about sunrise but I like it more than sunset. At sunset the sun goes down then that is that. Before sunrise all sorts of subtle hues dance around the sky. Its not saturated and glaring its a gentle dance of slowly changing colours, and when the sun finally peaks above the horizon its often a pale yellow colour producing a light that gives a bit of direction and detail around what it falls on and creates a wonderful three dimensional look to the landscape. So we travelled slowly past the people working in the fields, Each with a wonderful morning sun halo around them making them look mystical and magical. The same light fell on the children beginning to play on the waste ground, it fell on the men walking along the footpath by the side of the railway on their way to work and it fell on the men squatting, showing their genitals and defacating on the footpath whilst their empty eyes watched back a us.

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