As I mentioned before, the energy is definitely different in Delhi. The people getting from point A to point B by walking, public busing, tuk-tuks, buses, motorbikes and rickshaws is a bit overstimulating to say the least! And the incessant honking! Oy, vey! It’s constant and is meant as a means of communication between the drivers of the various forms of transportation, but for us Westerners, it is hard not to take offence. Another reminder that we aren’t in Kansas anymore (or South Carolina, Ohio, California or England for that matter!) The craziness of the streets carried with us onto the railways as we caught our 6am train to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. Upon arrival at the train station, we are reminded of how the rails are a significant part of mass transit in India. At the station, there are people EVERYWHERE! They are bustling about like an ant colony on crack yet, others are at a complete standstill laying anywhere and everywhere trying to catch a little bit of rest before their next train. We are seated in the highest cabin possible, yet the accommodations leave a lot to be desired. While the seats are fine, describing the bathrooms as disgusting would be an understatement. We are served water, tea and breakfast on the train, albeit only the bread and the stale cornflakes sans milk were palatable. I am told this cabin is about 1200 Rupees or about $22 for this 2 hour ride. The other classes of cabins went down as low as 200 Rupees; just under $4. Those unfortunate enough to be in the lower class cabins were lucky if they even had a seat. We could see them packed in this metal box like sardines with no A/C. At one train station, we see a passenger on another train being motion sick out the window. Not a pretty sight and I am again reminded to give thanks to the man sitting next to me for switching his seat so that I could face forward in the direction that we were headed, otherwise, I would have my head out the window as well.
The arrival into the Agra train station was my first realization at just how much poverty and despair there is here. Women carrying babies, small girls who couldn’t be more than 10 or 11 years old carrying babies passing them off as their own (or who knows, maybe they were their own) and little children begging for anything and everything: food, water and even asking for shampoo, of all things. This was almost unbearable. The pulling at your bags, your sleeves and your pants as they beg and plead was yet another reminder of the amazing life I lead back in the States and I wonder what my own children are doing at that time—hopefully behaving for Daddy!!! To add to the experience, the number of disfigured and crippled beggars is gut-wrenching and since I am at a loss for words to describe the pain I felt in my heart at that time, I won’t even attempt to try. Until next time…