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Monday, 22 March 2010

On the night train to Cochin, coach class

Impressions of India - 3:

I’m currently travelling for 3 months in India, from Goa to Kerala and then Rajasthan, with a pretty hot and hectic schedule of boutique hotel reviews. The galleries below are my online photojournalist diary of scenes caught, people met and things found along the way. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did and am still.

On the night-train to Cochin, coach class:

Getting on the 9.30pm train, braced for crowds, I found my reserved seat was in this front 8-berth section of the very first carriage, completely empty.

I was mostly alone, though a few people quietly came and went during the night. I also might have slept straight through had it not been for a chai-wallah shouting 'offee offee offee offee OFFEEE!' at 3 in the morning. Tiny things were biting, the diesel and nearby toilet did not smell good, and the metal screeches were often deafening. But it felt like my second little Indian adventure and the rollocking motion rocked me to sleep.

With the dawn came the chai-wallahs, all having little breaks before turning round and doing another breakfast sweep through the train.

As it was still early, the platforms were pretty empty.

My lower berth looked a lot prettier in daylight than under nighttime neon. The backrest cleverly lifts up, on thick chains, to become the middle bed, and there's a third bunk above.

And this is the lovely Bhowani, an 8-10 year old who came through the train begging with her worn-down, harmonium-playing father. When she skipped back into my carriage on her own, as if to keep me company and no longer flinty-eyed or demanding, we briefly became sign-and-eye-language friends and, when we got to Cochin, I was sad to see her go.

Fort Cochin’s line of Chinese fishing nets are huge and graceful, and a famous sunset-watching draw.  However, given that they’re a catch-all mechanism which also kills dolphins, they should probably be kept just for beauty and not for use from now on.

 The police car pound, under big old banyan trees which are clearly home to many birds.

 An afternoon on the waterfront.

Next post:

Up in the cooler Western Ghat mountains, with their stunning views and endless tea and spice plantations.

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