I am sitting in my apartment in Chennai. I really am. I’m on my bed, actually, as I typed this. When I was planning all of this months ago from my apartment in New York, it was just all fuzzy and vague. But now, I’ve done everything I’d wanted to do up to this point and got myself to Chennai safely. I thought it would all work out but I think I was a bit skeptical about it all. On Thursday when I saw my name on the side of the train in Mysore, I thought that was magical. I booked my train ticket for Mysore to Bangalore back in November of 2010 from New York, online. Two months later in India, I walked up to the train car where I thought my seat was (my e-ticket had my seat assignment which listed the coach and seat number) and there on the train itself was a piece of paper with the names of all the passengers who were confirmed for that compartment. Next to 36 Window, I saw my name. I couldn’t believe that worked! I was giddy.
So today when my train didn’t come on time (the same train I took from Mysore to Bangalore continues on to Chennai), I didn’t really panic. I knew it would eventually get here and if it didn’t, well then I’d go back to my hotel. My Shatabdi Express train arrived almost 40 minutes late from Mysore. But in the end, we made up some time between Bangalore and Chennai, and came in at 9:40PM instead of 9:15. The 5 hour train ride went by really quickly and I’m so glad that I took the train instead of flying to Chennai. Today I was the only non Indian in the entire car and I could feel all the eye balls on me whenever I moved. I booked a seat in the First Car AC compartment and it was very comfortable (I know, everyone says the real India is in the second class). It’s like riding those older New Jersey transit trains but with regular seats and meal service. On the way from Mysore to Bangalore, we were given water, juice, and some crackers for our 2 hour journey. Today for our 5 hour trip, we had a feast!
I didn’t think dinner would be served on the train so I ate my lunch quite late in Bangalore. That lunch, will be on a separate post since it was an experience I need to re-live again; I will elaborate on that another time. The train was late as I mentioned, and everyone was anxious to get on with it. As soon as we started moving, we were all each given 1L bottle of water and a glass of orange juice. Then we had sandwiches (shredded carrots and mayo on white bread with the crusts cut off), cashews, a small doughnut, a samosa, and a candy bar. About two hours into our journey, our feast came. A full Indian meal. At first we had some soup with bread sticks, which confused me as it wasn’t Indian. And I thought maybe that was all we had to eat. But then came a tray filled with chapatis, rice, a vegetable stew, and a curry, plus yogurt, raw veggies, fruit, and fried dough soaked in sweet syrup. I almost laughed out loud at how much there was to eat. Oh, and I love that the regular meals are vegetarian here. If you want a non-vegetarian meal, you have to ask for it. It’s the opposite from the West! And the curry was SPICY. Not a bad meal in India yet!
I ate with my hands rather than using my spoon and well, I was on full display then. I’m surprised no one took photos. I ate, read, dozed off for a few minutes here and there, and before I knew it we were pulling in to the Chennai Central Station. My driver was not where he was supposed to be waiting for me so I had to walk up to a booth to make a phone call (2 rupees for a local call ~ $0.04), but within minutes I located him. 30 minutes in the car through the biggest city I’ve been to so far in India, I arrived here where I’ll be staying for the next month.
I’ve unpacked, showered, and am ready for bed.
Tomorrow, I’ll see where I really am but tonight I’m happy to know that everything all worked out!