The Great Indian Train Journey: Mysore to Thanjavur.

Mysore to Thanjavur: 415 km by road, more than 600 km. by rail, and a 12 hour overnight journey: £6.00.

Bike park outside Mysore Station.

I’d booked my ticket the day before, and arrived at the station as directed, about an hour ahead of its scheduled departure.  It was just as well.  A station official took pity (for a small fee…) on the clueless European , who had no idea that she had to check in, in the manner of an airline passenger, or that she would find her seat by looking for her name on the passenger lists posted at each carriage door.

On the station platform, everyone was getting on with life.  A large family spread themselves on the ground, got out metal plates and canisters of food and got stuck in.  Rather than sit in a hot train, I headed for the calm of the Ladies’ Waiting Room until it was nearly time to go.

The train itself, once it got started got into the habit of making long stops nowhere in particular.  Chai and coffee boys went up and down the train.

As darkness fell, I was struck by the low level of lighting in the towns we passed through, and more particularly the stations.  Even at Bangalore, where we stopped for ages.  More chai, coffee and water sellers got on, then  vendors selling hot meals: I chose a vegetarian meal with rice and several different vegetable dishes – hot and very good value.  A young woman got on, having had her hands and wrists recently henna-ed on both sides.  Managing her life, which seemed to consist of calling people on her mobile, without using her not-yet-dry hands was quite a challenge. One family produced a three course supper with several dishes, on metal plates, then mum disappeared to wash up at the sink in the corridor.  I had different conversations with various passengers, limited by our inabilities in each other’s languages.

At about 9.00, we all got ready for bed. Our compartment got separated out into two sets of beds at three levels and smartly uniformed staff handed out crisply laundered sheets, pillows and a double blanket each for us to make up our beds in our own way.  For once, I slept … until 4.00, when so many passengers got out at Trichy.  I had only an hour to go before arriving at Thanjavur.

I was dreading having to wait on a dark deserted station for two hours (Waiting for whom? Another tale for another time). But it wasn’t deserted.  Not at all.  The booking hall was thronged with men – young men, old men, all sitting in convivial groups on the ground sorting and collating that day’s newspapers.  It took them almost the whole two hours that I had to wait until the next chapter of my story began….

Click on any image to view full size and to read the captions.

This was part of my Indian Adventure, November 2007.  I have used the place names that were then widely used, rather than the official names, which now seem more widely adopted.

Snapshot Sunday: Adverts repurposed as breakfast

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is ‘Repurpose’.  We’re to submit an image of something of our own that we’ve put to a new use. I couldn’t come up with anything worth a snapshot, even though I’m rather keen on ‘repurposing’.

Instead, I want you to come with me to Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu.  I was there almost ten years ago as part of my Indian Adventure.  I loved this town.  It’s not quite on the tourist trail, as its glorious and extravagantly carved temples remain unpainted.  They are not vibrantly painted like those in nearby Madurai, so Madurai gets the foreign visitors.

I stayed* with a young American academic, Gwen, who for seven years had made Thanjavur her home.  She whisked me about on her motor bike, introduced me to her Indian friends and neighbours, asked me to run errands for her in the market where nobody spoke English or saw tourists much, and took me to tiny back street shops to buy freshly prepared and sizzling-hot evening meals.

I was by myself though, when early one morning I came upon these goats. They’d found a new use for the adverts pasted on the walls of a house. Look.

goats-in-thanjavur

And here’s the cow that was tethered outside Gwen’s window.  It’s found an unfortunate use for the pile of rubbish tumbled into a pile on the corner.

View from Gwen's window
View from Gwen’s window

Finally, here’s a different use for a pavement.  It’s become a canvas for traditional drawings in fine sand.  These designs frame the lights which lit our path homewards every evening during Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light.

diwali

And here are three picture postcards – temple views.

* via ‘Couchsurfing’, a scheme which matches travellers with locals, who offer beds, local knowledge and friendship.