I have taken the train from Mumbai to Pune. The whole experience has been fascinating. From arrival by taxi at the station in Mumbai.
When we pulled up at the station I told my two travelling companions, Divesh and Mannu, to get ready. They looked at me somewhat confused by that statement. Within minutes they understood. I was the only white guy in the station this morning. The attention was way more that they were used to. Everything was harder for them to do because I was there as opposed to when they travel on their own. Getting the baggage porter to agree on a fee, etc. We received extra attention from the police, the conductors, the vendors on the train, everybody.
The train station in Mumbai was something to experience. The smells were pretty awful. There was a crush of people. There were people just hanging out, there were commuters (we got there at 7:00am), there were the previously mentioned vendors, all kinds of people. And since the Indians don’t seem to have the same sense of personal space we do, and there were so many people, there was constantly jostling as we made our way to the platform our train was leaving from.
The security at the station was pretty funny. They had an x-ray machine to put all the baggage through. But there was no one there! Yet, we, like everybody else, put our baggage through the machine. We also walked through turned off, or not working, metal detectors. Finally I saw one guy in uniform sitting at the monitor of the x-ray machine. He was reading the paper!
When we got out onto our platform and down to the air conditioned cars (we were travelling in luxury I tell you), the crowd thinned out. I got my camera out and started taking pictures.
I’ve put a bunch of them up on my flickr account. I didn’t do any editing so these are nothing more than snapshots taken by me, a rank amateur.
The ride was uneventful. We got to share out compartment with a two year old. That was the same as you would expect anywhere. It was about a four hour ride. She was ok for the first hour, screamed for the second hour, and then slept the rest of the way.
While moving through the city you got a close up look at some really nasty slum areas. Anywhere the land is not controlled by someone, the shanties pop up. They go on for miles.
The country side alternates between really pretty rural farmland and the dirty shanties and trash piles.
When we pulled in to Pune, it was the whole white man circus began again. Taxi drivers just about knocking each other over to hire me. The porter, this time with no cart, stacked all of our luggage on his head (and it was heavy), and took us to the taxi stand. It is weird to be walking through a crowd and have people stare at you. It is also, I have to say, kind of enjoyable, as I do really get a sense of the white man’s privilege while walking through a crowd in India.
But, just like back home in Dallas, I’m still invisible to the pretty girls.