BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE
OH, NO! STRANDED IN INDIA
I was almost stranded at a station in a village whose name I couldn’t pronounce. I was teaching in the southern part of India, in a place called Tamil Nadu, at a small village. It was at a 7,000 foot level in the mountains. Mountains are called “ghats.” The village was Kodaikanal and the school was Kodaikanal International School.
We had a long Christmas vacation so students could travel to their home country for their vacations. The students were all boarding students from many countries. I wanted to see as much of India as I could at this time. A young Indian piano teacher, Roger, friend of mine, said he lived in Kalimpong. Kalimpong is on the boarder of Napal.
“Sure, I would love to meet your family.”
Roger already had his train ticket. I bought a train ticket. I was put in a cabin with three men!—–in a different car than my friend was in. The trip lasted four days. I had a top bunk. I climbed up and watched the men. One was an alcoholic, I was sure, as I watched take a drink from something in a paper bag. Well, if I just poked him hard with my finger I was sure he would fall over. Never-the-less, I was not going to go to sleep. The other two men were just sort of there. They were busy with their conversations in their language.
One looked up at me and said “Where are you from?”
“From the U .S.”
Was that a good “Oh” or a bad “Oh?” I couldn’t tell but it didn’t sound very good to me. Since it was getting close to lunchtime, I climbed down and walked through a few cars to find the kitchen or dining area. Found it. There was a tarp on the floor with a mountain of rice. There was also a mouse running around the rice. So much for lunch. A man came around with a big bucket of rice and a huge scoop, and a paper plate.
“No thank you.”
At the next train stop, I ran off to buy an orange and perhaps some cookies, whatever I could find. This worked OK. There were several young fellows who went through the cars at every stop, selling hot coffee. The cups were the size of a peanut cup. It cost about five rupees. (less than an American dime) It was very hot and took about one swallow. However, it was nice to have with the orange.
“No rice. Aren’t you hungry?”
“The orange and coffee are plenty. Thank you.”
The sky looked as if the sunset would have been beautiful. It was hard to tell with the window almost black with dirt. Dinnertime was coming and the fellow was hollering “Dinner, rice and samba!” Samba is a sort of watery soup with lots of veggies. It also didn’t look appetizing. Waited for another stop. It came soon and I jumped off quickly. Found a stand with lots of goodies and paid but needed change. I was getting nervous waiting for the change and I started to holler at him. He finally gave me my change but the train was starting to move.
I ran down the track as fast as I could but it was picking up speed. I tried to jump on a platform that was closest and two men grabbed my wrists and pulled me on board. WOW! What a close call. Roger was watching through a window and running as fast as he could through the cars, trying to get to me. Boy, was he upset!
“Don’t ever do that again!”
“Uh hu”. Well I still have to get off to get something to eat, but I guess I wouldn’t be waiting for change again.
We were about four stops from where we were to get off. The train seemed to be stopping longer than usual. When the train stopped, four policemen got onto the train. They walked down the isle and stopped next to my cabin. In the cabin across from me in the top bunk, was a man I saw for the first time was in shackles. The police pulled him down and carted him off. I wonder what he did.
Soon we were to get off. When we arrived at our stop, I was asked for my passport. Can you believe? I didn’t have it! I was frantically looking for proof that I lived in India. After some time, I found a “Residential permit”. That was accepted so I was not put on the train to return—-or I thought that was what they would do. It could have been jail.
Roger was a nervous wreck. He was more upset about things than I was.
Eventually we arrived at his beautiful home, high on a mountaintop. The rest is another story.