Monday, March 10, 2008

long travels

On Friday, I got on a train. I spent 23 hours on the train, 2 hours waiting at McDonalds, 12 hours on a bus, one hour on another bus, one short night sleeping and one day of marching across the Himachal Pradesh countryside and I still haven't taken a dump. I'm a frickin' machine. When I start long journeys, I can simply shut down my bodily needs. Maybe it's a wrestling thing. I eat little and drink less to avoid the hassle of climbing the luggage racks like a monkey to reach the bathroom and most importantly, face the possibility of losing my seat. I simply put my body into hibernation mode. But enough about my budding anorexia.

I found a new source of income in India: selling seats in the unreserved cars. I've never seen this before because I've only gotten on in the middle of the line. This train started in Bombay so I figured I could get a seat in the empty train. I throw myself into the mob around the doors and found a bunch of empty seats with men standing on them. I try to sit down but he demands money. Well, stubborn lex isn't paying for a seat when he already bought it once. Every row had someone standing in it and I finally get mad. I throw myself onto a seat and two guys bum rush me off of it and I almost come to blows with a round little man and his smug little mustache. The other guy smiles and tells me to try the same thing with his competition in the next row. That made me laugh and we shook hands. However, I gave up, annoyed at a system where these men pay baskheesh to railway workers (I assume because nobody gets a sweet gig like that for free) and get to double charge paying customers.

I squatted in a corner morosely until someone inevitably struck up a conversation and I got to learn the life story of someone else in India (although I can't remember anything about this one except that he's an accountant, maybe the latter explains the former). I actually had one of my best unreserved rides in the country. I spent the first night on the floor alternatively talking to strangers and taking copious notes in my history of tibet book. I did get slightly molested by a hijra. I wouldn't have minded so much if it wasn't the masculine fat one instead of the one that I still maintain was a real (and cute) girl in spite of the differing opinion of my new friends.

By the morning, I made it onto the upper level of seats and made everyone laugh by reciting some of my hindi words for the body and ending with the word for elephant followed by my terrible elephant pantomime. Gets 'em every time. In turn, a man quite impressed me when he took a thick blanket and somehow tied it through the strong chicken-wire like mesh behind the upper seats and a handle on the wall, making a hammock for himself above everyone's head. When he got in, I would have bet twenty bucks it'd hit the floor in two minutes but he spent the night there quite peacefully while his wife had to stand up every time someone went to the bathroom. I guess she should have brought her own blanket.

After 23 hours on the train, 450 pages of Tibetan history and one ten rupee gold chain, I finally got to New Dehli and rewarded myself with a small mouthful of Cheezit dust, the only item left from my wonderful parent's box of goodies. I'm saving this Cheezit dust for special occasions like the end of hard journeys, first marriages and the birth of male children. I ride the new New Dehli subway over to the bus station, extremely impressed by their metro which rivals the best I have seen in the States. After asking a dozen people where to get the bus to Dharamsala (and getting two liars who say there's none left, take mine tomorrow morning), a friendly taxi driver helped me. When it looked like the tickets might run out before we got to the front, he gave me his money and shoved me up. Luckily, they took my gora (foreigner) money before anyone else and we hopped on the bus. By the end of the overnight ride, I got invited to two weddings for that night, drank half of the weakest bottle of mixed vodka (I think it was one shot into a bottle of lime soda) and totally misread the situation when an old man got onto the bus. After his eyes lit up upon seeing me, I thought he wanted to sit between me and my taxiwallah friend so he could get to know me better. Turns out he just wanted money because he "lost" everything that night. Oh vanity.

My new friend got me onto the final bus that took me to Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's residence in exile. Unfrotunately, not much to do there so I took a short bus ride up to Mcleod Gang which now ranks high on my list "Places that I do not like in India because they're just tourist traps and I want to be the only white person walking around because it's my country now, bitch"(I think my list names get a little wordy). It's a fine place for a tourist. I just can't stand being in places like that. I do not want an easy packaged version of this country with hawkers and their trinkets everywhere. I finally met up with the media team and we headed off to the beginnning of a great adventure.

But more on that later. And an apology: posts are going to be quite rushed for the foreseeable future. Internet may be hard to get and I need to concentrate on getting articles and press releases written. I'll just brain dump everything out with no review and hope you want to wallow in it.


anna said...

hahaha she should have brought her own blanket! so true! and he should bear his own sons!
oh wait, hes just a man.

Astrid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
perdukistan said...

ride on man! it was nice meeting you in Dharamsala. I hope that the rest of the march goes well also beyond the boarder of the Kangra discrict. if i don't see you in the next days, we can keep in touch via blos.



anna said...

lexy are you in jail?