The Ahmedabad Express
True be told ‘ere
In Monsoon it’s better to take the
train, they said. Flying can be . . .
difficult. Kalyan junction six-fifty
a.m. watched by the, “Australians.”
First class — glass in the windows
ceiling fans passing for aircon.
Nine hours of Railway India hospitality.
Sit back enjoy the view.
Inside and out.
Rain soaked paddy fields green as the
Irish flag pass by, breakfast served
by cotton clad ghosts in flip-flops.
Hard-boiled eggs, juice and yoghurt
followed by boiled-milked tea.
Suspicious of the meal I ate
as I see Indian businessmen
palm eggs and secrete bread rolls.
Fingers crossed, I chat to colleagues
and read reports.
Slow progress doesn’t stop time
passing quickly. Lunch arrives silently
in paper bags and plastic cups
as we pass shallow lakes with clay
Geneshes dissolving to recycle life.
I cherry-pick the contents
and drink Pepsi-Cola puzzled by
the lack of my fellow traveller’s appetites.
An hour later my half full lunch bag
sits surreptitiously ‘forgotten’ by the window
as we disembark at Vadodara
with fellow passengers toting paper
bags of life to be placed in outstretched
hands politely lining the platform.
I spy my bag behind glass.
Thank you for sharing. So true. Life this is. The crumbs from our tables can feed the world.
Boiled milk tea…..brings back memories. When friends ask for tea now I use just milk, no water, throw in the loose darjeeling, add the cardamoms and slowly bring to the boil. Smooth and delicious, to be eaten with a spoon.
Well, Bhi, I ain’t ever a’comin’ to yours for tea 🙂
That’s a very interesting recipe,. I might try that. Do you used whole cardomoms of ground ones.. It’s twenty years since I was in India. I like to think things have changed for the ‘less well off’ It looks like the trains have improved from news reports I’ve seen. The ‘Australians’ is what my Indian colleagues called the street kids. Apparently an Indian politician talking about birth control made a speech saying the Indian population was increasing by the equivalent on the entire population of Australia every year. I’d like to go back and see how things are now, but… Read more »
Whole cardamoms. You get to spit them out to round off the experience! I use whole milk – none of the semi skimmed or skimmed malarky – to give the tea body, and by throwing everything in up front builds the flavour.
I read of children begging baby formula milk which they resold to the shops it came from and the look of dismay on the face of a young girl as the Westerner opened it for her. Your poem evokes much of India as I know it from online vids – it was my intention to go this winter but the situation…
ps love the clay Ganeshes – we had some artist place a chalk monolith in the local estuary – to watch it dissolve (a £15k project) it lasted one day – sometime in the night it gave up its ghost
Rick, you’d be surprised what both the kids and adults get up to make money for food. My boss a real tough business cookie came with me to India one time. She saw a teenage girl with a toddler begging outside Victoria station in Mumbai for food. Her heart melted. She wanted to give money, I suggested if was better to give food. She went off to buy some soft food suitable for the baby. When she handed it over she was shocked when the girl ignored the baby and bolted down the food. I didn’t want to tell her… Read more »
I will have to go there – most of my sons have been (largely at my expense) – blast this covid – I had a long held fancy to die in Varanasi and be cremated on the ghats. Who knows? It might come to that one of these years. 🙂
In parts of UK where I’ve lived there are always plenty of brawling kids to boost up the numbers when the ‘Social’ came calling 🙂
ps I’ve just found out how to edit here – shame I have nowt to alter 🙂
Go if you can, you won’t be sorry. Shocked maybe, but I think you can handle that. A couple of tips: always ask for ‘al la carte’ in eating places (it means it has to be freshly prepared) it’s worth the wait! While it’s being cooked get a bowl of their the lovely poppas (not fried ones the ones like at home) ones cooked on a hot plate. Delish. Don’t worry about the state of the place. BTW insist on a la carte be forceful don’t be fobbed off (they are usually very happy to oblige) it’s very important for… Read more »
Thanks – I’ve watched numerous ‘walkabout’ vids on youtube plus ‘watch outs’ about scammers – did not know about a la carte though – thanks for that. It will be the trip of my life – I’ve done Jerusalem and Athens etc but India!!- probably be next winter now alas.
Look at those beautiful innocent children! This world has the potential to be a paradise but greed, corruption and evil people have made it into a prison planet and the gates are shutting for us all unless we all wake up very fast. This poem was most enjoyable. It told a story and made me feel as though I was a passenger. My father was in India during the war. He was all over the world in the Royal Navy but he said that India was the place he would have loved to have shown my mum. He spoke of… Read more »
Hi Alison Sorry for the delay in replying to you. Your dad was right. India is a place of extremes, but fascinating at the same time. The first time I went, I hated it, but my new colleagues there were great and very soon the place grew on me. Maybe being with only Indian people and seeing it through their experience helped me feel comfortable. I went several times, but never went to the tourist places (unless Bangalore and Mumbai is on the tourist map now) but I got a real feel for the way of life there for both… Read more »