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Commuter Trains to Bhuj

Ahmedabad to Bhuj, Gujurat, India – We had our usual prayers at 4:30 and 6:30 a.m. Then after we got up, we headed over to the GPO so I could post yet another parcel. Stitching, wrapping, riding, pasting the Indian Postal Service does love their arts and crafts. The easiest way to deal with the bugger is to just ask them how they want package label. Sometimes, the return address goes on the bottom on the side etc. so to make the entire process that much less painful, its easier just to wait and ask so the mail dude does not get flustered. Of course, every square inch of the parcel had to have something written, sown, or glued on to it. It is the Indian way.

The Indian culture and logic section of my brain was still stunned from the common sense used to designing the Kerala buses without windows but when Rich came over to me with some stamps he purchased, my brain was put at ease. International post cards cost seven rupees and letters, eleven.
I even written it on piece of paper so that the postmaster couldn’t mess it up, but he could of course instead of having stamps printed in denominations used frequently or set rates. They just have stamps in all denominations, plus have not figured out their thinking quite yet. But when Rich asked for two sets of seven rupee stamps, we wondered around after a post office ordeal trying to kill time for we were headed to Bhuj on that evening’s night train.

There was some festival going on out in Bhuj, which is in Western Gujarat near the Pakistani border. We arrived in the station that evening and found a carriage with no problem. Well there was one problem, our bunks were above a set of two, four person benches facing each other and there were no less than 15 people crammed into the entire area. I mean there were people everywhere and were completely undaunted when a tall, blonde, Western man carrying a 15 kilo rucksack entered the carriage to deposit his luggage.

No one moved an inch or gave any ground. So I ended up setting my pack on above kneecaps until the pain was too much too endure. The kneecaps moving and my sliding the pack under the seat, it was that easy. Neither of us could believe that we would have to endure this ride for the next 18 hours out to Bhuj. The carriage read second class, but this certainly seems like a third class carriage. The train started off. Rich and I in our bunks above the sea of people, but we did not know was that the train was also an Ahmedabad commuter train, so four stops later, the entire carriage was empty except for us.

We sat down on the benches and had a good look around. Crappy wooden slat benches with the paint worn off, then dim light bulbs with wire protective mesh twisted and hanging from the ceiling like deformed Christmas ornament. The paint peeling of the wall over the window and absolutely no lights to be seen at the window. Another perfect setting for one of my twilight zone scripts, “Two men on the train in the deepest darkest India neither knowing their train would take them on a ride of terror”. Monsoon flood sweeping carriage away.

Bhuj sits in the center of the Kutch district of the state and we learned that during the high rains of the monsoon this third of the state is physically separated from the main land by water, pretty trippy. The one good thing that did come out of our train ride was we got to meet Nikki, a blonde hair, blue-eyed British girl just winding up her travels in India. We always seem to find those. Once our carriage had emptied out, Rich went and found her in another empty carriage. We all finally got to sleep only to be woken up briefly at 2 a.m. by a group of red-turbaned sadhus.

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