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Anne in Bombay commuter train

Maharashtra & Gujarat

With the wedding over, it was time to set off on our own. We decided to visit first the Ellora and Ajanta caves in nearby Maharashtra by taking the night train to Aurangabad. A relation of Tanya's helped us to fill out the forms at the station in order to get our tickets booked. Victoria Station in Bombay looked like a giant refugee camp when we arrived later that night. Every inch of available floor space was taken up with destitute-looking people, shoeless and dressed in ragged clothes and carrying large bundles. Surly guards brandishing sticks kept the masses in line. Access to the platforms was blocked by a line of police. When we showed our tickets for booked spaces on the sleeper we crossed the lines and waited on the platform. Soon we realized that the massing barefoot peasants were waiting for the same train. Slipping through the lines, they hopped down and scurried over the tracks towards us. Meanwhile, the train was late. Tension mounted as the line of waiting passengers stretched around the station and off into the distance. When the train pulled into the station, already over an hour late, a cry went up from the waiting horde. Rushing headlong onto the platform, they mobbed the closest wagons, still moving, banging the windows, throwing their bundles aboard and squeezing between the bars over the doors and windows to claim seats. We quickly found our wagon and our seats, which turned out to be a bunk in a three-tiered, wide-open compartment. Our compartment was soon invaded with pushing and shoving passengers shouting and arguing over seat. Other passengers told us not to leave any luggage, even shoes, on the floor. We stretched out on our bunks, trying to find a way to curl around our backpacks. It was a long, sleepless night. Whenever the train halted there was an outbreak of cries and shouts as people rushed to get on and off the train simultaneously, sometimes stepping on passengers sleeping on the floor. A shouting argument between a man and a woman broke out in the adjacent compartment. When that died down two men began shouting on the other side. The train stopped often during the night. There were no signs at the stations, so we didn't know when we had to get off. At about 5:00 AM the train made a long stop. Thinking this might be the place, we asked the other passengers if we were in Aurangabad. After a few unsure replies, someone replied that this was indeed the place. We rushed to gather our bags, pull on our shoes and get off the train before it lurched slowly onwards into the chilly night.

Crowded Bombay station