I carry on from the previous blog about the journey to India and as usual, India delivers the unexpected. While everything about Qatar Airways was nice and friendly, the flight from Doha was filled up by no less than 60-70 school kids either returning home from holiday trip or going on school trip. And while they were fairly well behaved (as compared to probably what we all were during school trips) there was no chance of snatching some vital sleep on the flight to Delhi.
I land at Delhi around 3 O’clock in the morning without any sleep and feeling grumpy (nothing new, many would say). I was also anticipating a lot of chaos and headache as a result of the gear that I was carrying with me, and that the authorities here have a particular dislike for British nationals. 😀 😀 Anyway, Delhi Airport turns out to be totally unexpected. I have clear run through Immigration without a question being asked, my bags are delivered promptly, not stopped at customs and on to a pre-paid cab to the Railway Station for train to Ranthambhore (actually, Sawai Madhopur town to be precise).
So, I am thinking everything seems to have changed and it’s all looking good, until India decides to throw in the second unexpected. First the rain gods decide that they need to bless properly my arrival and so the skies open up with a massive rain shower. Then at the station there’s no proper waiting room open to allow for some rest while I wait for a train that is scheduled 4.30 hours later. Anyway, I find a waiting room which says “Air-conditioned” but is hot and stuffier than the weather outside. And it has the smell (don’t ask to describe please) and noise of a typical Indian railway station.
Waiting at a Railway Station in India is one of the best ways to watch the Indian society and people at their best. You soon start noticing some real characters and even become part of it. First of all, even though the earliest train arriving or departing is an hour later, the tannoy keeps repeatedly announcing every 3 minutes that the train number blah blah going to blah blah is on time. 🙁 🙁 I doubt if there are any passengers even waiting for it. Then you have an Attendant of the Waiting Room who seem to have mastered the art of making himself busy and vital. He walks to one end of the Waiting Room, uses his long handled brush to push one piece of rubbish to another corner. He then goes back to the previous corner and pushes another piece of rubbish to the same corner where he pushed the first piece. He then returns the third time to find another piece of rubbish and does the whole process again. The cycle continues all around the room, after which he takes about 10 minute break and then starts all over again. I thought this was a wonderful idea that rest of the world could take to keep people in employment. 😀 😀
Then there are fellow travellers like the one who must have come into the Waiting Room while I dozed off, shook me by my head, told me to keep an eye on his luggage and disappeared to the bathroom across to brush his teeth. I didn’t even get a chance to say yes or no. At this stage, noticing my my exasperated look a family sitting next to me decide to intervene. They feel that I needed some perking up and so insist that I share some of their breakfast. It did not matter how many times I refused because ultimately they made sure that I took a bite from their food. It was a very nice and touching thing to do but at that moment I was just not interested in food. All I wanted was sleep. 🙁
Anyway, I ultimately board the train and think that I will have a nice nap during the 5 hour journey. However, I had not calculated on more characters among my fellow travellers again. This time it’s a family of 4 who are sharing the same compartment as me and another man. It’s still very early morning and both, me and the other man, looked like we wanted to sleep. However, the family of four includes a 2-3 year old “brat” who decides it time to play and sing songs. So while I am trying to get sleep, the young maestro is screaming all the latest Bollywood hits in a voice that could attract few asses. If that’s not bad, the mother in even louder and shrilly voice than him, keeps shouting every few minutes to be quiet because the “uncle wants to sleep”. 🙁 🙁 I honestly did not know who was worse…the brat or the mother, but I wish capital punishment was legal. 😀 😀 Anyway, so again there was no sleep. Then looking at my miserable and grumpy, which those who know me will say is my normal face, the train attendant comes and gives me a book titled “Chanakyaniti” to read. 😀 😀 😀 To those who are not familiar with Indian history, Chanakya was a very wise and astute political and economic advisor to one of the great rulers during ancient India. He wrote a whole volume on principles of economics, public management and good governance. Anyway, not to be rude, I politely tell the attendant that I cannot read as I don’t have my reading glasses. To my amazement he goes a gets a pair of reading glasses and insists that I read the booklet.
So all in all it has been an amazing experience. Anyway I ultimately reach the place that I normally stay at Ranthambhore, have a nice light lunch. Those who know Rajasthani culture and hospitality will realise that ‘light’ is not a term that can be readily associated with its food, but I still manage it. And then I am told that an afternoon safari has been scheduled for me. Suddenly all the sleep and tiredness disappears and I am off the forest, and what an afternoon ride – three different tigers and a leopard sighting. Couldn’t have asked for any better ending to my travel from London to India.
Images below of a female and male tiger sighted on my first safari: