Monday, 22 February 2010

An unfortunate position

I was catching the night train to Bikaner. Unfortunately, I’d been unable to get First Class or Two Tier tickets so I’d been demoted to Sleeper Class. I’d been nervous about the journey given the horror stories I’d heard but I needn’t have worried: my bunk was in an open compartment with two ladies in their 70s and a middle-aged man who was genuinely friendly and not at all sleezy.

The only downfall was the position of my bunk – it was in the section closest to the toilet and the door that usually separates the compartment and the toilet area was missing. I got on the train at 10:30pm for a 12-hour journey and the air was already thick with ammonia. My only saving grace was that the windows could be opened so by lying down with my face close to an open slit in the window (it was too cold to open it fully) I could get a few gulps of fresh (ish) air.

Ammonia, I’m sad to say, was not the worst of it. You can get used to ammonia and soon your nostrils barely notice it; what I found harder to accept were the sounds – not the sounds of people going to the toilet (the toilets were soundproof) but the sounds associated with the early morning routine undertaken by every member of the carriage at the one sink available which happened to be positioned about 1m from the end of my bed.

As everyone woke the following morning, there was the usual dawn chorus of farts and belching (the women in my section being particularly gifted), which was followed by a steady procession to the sink. Here, each individual took ten minutes at the sink where they cleared their throat and hocked into the sink at least five times, before pressing one nostril in at a time and clearing the contents of their nasal passages. This culminated in them using brown paste smeared on a finger to clean their teeth before a little extra hocking just to make sure their throats were well and truly clear.

This stomach-turning procedure was repeated by each of the 30 people in the carriage. I, meanwhile, had my earphones in and my iPod turned up to max but to no avail. Needless to say, breakfast was well and truly off the menu that morning!

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