Dealing with Train Stations

Arriving in the Varanai train station was a less than pleasant experience. Looking back, it makes me upset that such an incredible city gave me such a terrible first impression.
Kelsi and I had pre booked an onward train ticket from Varanasi to Mathura weeks earlier in Delhi. Unfortunately, when the ticket finally got to us it had no departure time. There was a train number, and class and berth and date, just no departure time. No problem. When we arrived in Varanasi we’d just ask at the counter when the train left… If only it was that easy.
While Kelsi watched the bags, I waited in three different counter lines. It was jam packed, people pressing up against me from all angles. No one actually waits in lines here, they just shove and push aggressively to get to the window. As a Canadian, I could wait in line forever; but I didn’t have time for that. I pushed my way to the front of the lines only to get waved to the next counter. By the third line I was exhausted, cranky from not having slept properly on the over night train, hungry from not eating breakfast and ready to kill the next person that grabbed me in line. I pushed my way to the front of the line to get to the window.
“Hi. I have a train ticket to Mathura tomorrow, but it doesn’t have a departure time. Can you help me out?”
“No.” Said the man behind the counter without looking up at me.
“Look, I just want to know when it leaves. What time is the train to Mathura tomorrow?”
“No.”
At this point I was getting pressed to the side, other people were pushing their hands in the ticket window and getting their tickets. I put my ticket down, took a deep breath and pushed myself back in.
“Okay. I would like to purchase a ticket to Mathura tomorrow please” I said in my most polite voice, trying a slightly new tactic. “What time do they leave at?”
“No.” He said again.
“Why? I want to BUY a ticket!” I said, not so politely.
“No.”
“Why won’t you help me?!?” I yelled at him through the glass.
For the first time he turned up to face me, he looked me in the eyes and said “Because you’re a woman!”
I stood there dumbfounded, not knowing what to say. I was pushed aside by the rest of the men in line and the man behind the counter continued printing out tickets.
I was livid: beyond furious! I stormed back to Kelsi in a rage and grabbed my bag.
“Let’s go” I said
“What time does it leave?”
“He won’t tell me” I snapped and walked outside. We walked into a throng of Tuk Tuk drivers.
“Hello madam!”
“Tuk Tuk?”
“Where you going?”
We walked past four of them before talking to one guy. “How much to the Siddartha hotel?”
“100 rupees” he smiled.
I was insulted. Kelsi and I both knew we should pay about 30 rupees to get there. I didn’t even dignify him with a response, we just pushed him aside and kept walking.
The prepaid Tuk tuks were all charging 55 rupees so we walked outside. When I told Kelsi about
why we still didn’t know the train time she was equally as upset. We pushed our way past Tuk Tuk drivers that quoted anything above 60. Finally one guy came up to us with a slightly better price.
“Hello madam. I will take you there for 50 rupees” he said with a smile.
“THIRTY!” I shouted at him. He hadn’t done anything wrong to me, but if you’d told me that then I would have bit your head off.
“Okay 40” he said.
“30!” And I walked away. I would have kept waking all the way to the hotel if I had to.
“Okay, okay.” He grabbed my arm “30 rupees.” He walked us to his Tuk Tuk and helped Kelsi with her bag on the other side. My bag is huge. It’s a fight every time I have to get in a tiny Tuk Tuk. This time was no exception. Two guys stood next to me with their arms crossed staring down my shirt every time my scarf moved while I struggled with the bag. When I got it half in I turned to them.
“Well aren’t you two gentlemen!” I snapped in the most sarcastic tone possible. “Please! Just go ahead and stare at me while I struggle with my bag! Thank you so much!” They didn’t even seem phased as I glared them down and pushed my way into the Tuk Tuk. They just kept on staring. I felt like killing someone.
As the Tuk Tuk drove away, I watched our driver in the side mirror. He was an old man and looked like he had some sort of tourettes. He couldn’t keep his eyes open for longer than a half second, then he twitched and bit his lip and squinted and licked the side of his mouth. Something was definitely going on with him. But he was the nicest person ever.
“Hello! My name Samesh! This is my license and this is my story!”
He handed me his license and a little scrap piece of paper. Obviously some tourist that he had driven around wrote about how nice he had been as a driver and gave it to him. He had laminated it and proudly showed it to us. It broke my heart.
“See! Samesh! That’s me!” He smiled as he twitched and blinked wildly. I was slightly concerned about how in the world Samesh was driving through this crazy city with his eyes closed, and then I remembered how I yelled at him over 20 rupees difference in price.
20 rupees is 40 cents. I just about snapped his head off over 40 cents. He was driving us all the way to our hotel for 60 cents. And this is his living, the way he survives and feeds himself. I sat quietly in the back of the Tuk Tuk on the brink of tears. Breaking point!
When we got to the hotel I couldn’t handle life. I let Kelsi pay Samesh as he smiled and waved goodbye to us, yelling about how much we were going to enjoy this hotel. We checked in and I went straight to bed to lie down.
It was silent and cold in our room. Two things that I hadn’t experienced in ages. We both recovered for an hour before walking back out into the crazy world.
It turns out, nearly all train stations have different lines for men and women. The Varanasi train station didn’t have an open line for women, it was only men that were dealt with. As a foreign woman I had to go to the tourist office on the other side of the terminal if I wanted to be helped.
Still, the reason why they have a separate women’s line is because women are groped and grabbed in lineups. I’d managed to fight my way through three lines, and not a single person told me where I needed to go. You’d think, after all that trouble, the guy could just look at his computer screen and tell me when the goddamn train left.
All of my train station experiences since have been equally as frustrating. It took us over two hours to book a train in the Mathura station and about 6 different lineups to push through. Kelsi tapped out after one guy grabbed her in line, and had I not met two very lovely gentlemen in my line I probably would have done the same. I think we’re going to stick with buses when we hit the South. No one wants to be around when we finally snap and kill someone, right?
Good thing Varanasi was worth the trip…

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5 thoughts on “Dealing with Train Stations

  1. People think I’m crazy when I take buses in India bc most people view the buses as very dangerous, especially for foreigners…. but this is exactly why I prefer to take buses over trains.

    I was a bit sad to be back in America yesterday, but you’re bringing back such great memories πŸ™‚

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    • Agreed! Busses are the way to go unless you are taking it overnight! How long were you in India for? Did you find the south easier to deal with as a female? So far that’s been my impression and the frustrations of the North are over!

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      • I was there for about a year total but still haven’t been to the south at all, but I’ve heard it’s easier in general from other people, too The closest I came to the south was Bombay, and that was certainly much better in terms of that I could wear whatever I want without getting treated differently (I bought these like capri pants to wear around just bc I was so excited about this haha), but even still when buying tickets for the local trains people would be dicks. I’m so done with anything north of Bombay for now haha, I will be exclusively in the south the next time I go back for sure.

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  2. Hiliary:
    Glad that you are young and can cope with these things…I would just get on a plane (preferably one without men) and come home.
    Your experiences are beautifully written and I am sure you will with have some great memories read your blogs after returning home.
    Stay safe
    Annmarie

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    • Thanks Annmarie!
      Kelsi and I are having an incredible time. There are always hiccups here and there when dealing with different cultures, but we’ve spent the last couple weeks in the South and adore it!
      Glad you are enjoying the stories!
      See you when I’m back on the West Coast πŸ™‚

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