So booking my train ticket was fun. After fighting my way off the local commuter train (which I'm getting quite good at now) I headed for the ticket reservation office and strolled past the queueing people to the "foreigners only" counter (long live apartheid!) which was empty, save for the rather bored looking lady sat behind it. "This should be a rather relaxing affair" I foolishly thought to myself as I approached. "Yes, yes, where you want to go?!" fired off the old lady at 100 miles an hour, suddenly waking from her hibernation and switching into a manic state of urgency. I reeled for a second from the switch in tempo that and tried to get myself up to the 200bpm gabba speed that she was now operating at. "Um, Goa... Margao.. sorry Madgaon... sleeper train.. " "Yes Yes Yes, when?!" she barked at me, her demeanour ramping up by 10bpm with each impatient look she threw my way. "Sorry, wednesday, this wednesday." "Nooo! Which date!! Date! Which date!!" I started to feel her urgency seeping into me like waves of gamma radiation, altering my biochemical make up and changing me, like Bruce Banner transforming into the Incredible Hulk, or in my case the Incredibly Neurotic Hulk. "Ok, sorry" I stammer, "let me check my calendar". I open my phone and "slide to wake". My phone thinks about waking, then hits "snooze" and has another 10 second power nap. Finally it wakes and I hit the calendar button to load up my life on it's shiny little screen. It thinks about this for a moment, "Date!! Date!! Which date!" she suddenly shouts at me again. "I know, I'm try..." "Here fill this. Date, train number, passport num, address, berth preference, signature!" she suddenly fires, pushing a form into my hand. "Closing now!!" I quickly scan the room and see that there are still queues of people at all the other counters and that the counter staff seem to be plodding along at the usual speed of indian bureaucracy, which is to say about as slow as a slow worm moving through tar. I look back at my lady, whose whole body seems to jumping now as if being animated by hundreds of small electric shocks. I snap back into the urgency of the situation and scan the form frantically, now fully in sync with this maniac. But my brain is trying to work too fast and I can't seem to comprehend the form... what was it I was supposed to put again?! I can't remember what she said! Oh my god, it all just looks like gibberish!! Oh hang on, it's in hindi.. I turn the form over and find the english version, but still my brain is trying too hard to rush and I can't make sense of it... at last I find the "name" field and start to write, "B...i...l..." "Here!" she suddenly interrupts me again, thrusting a bundle of notes and coins into my hand, "Give me 300!" After a moment of confusion in which I grapple with the upside-down concept of being given your change before you have paid or even been told the price of something, I do my best to respond. But I now have my phone in my left hand halfway through finding the date, a pen in my right trying to fill the form, and there really is no way I can do more. "Ok, one second" I say, trying to conjure up a few extra arms like a hindu deity. Failing to do so, I put the pen down and reach into my pocket for my wallet. No sooner have I done so than she snatches back the form from the counter, looks at it, and barks "passport number!! passport number!!" shaking it in my face and looking incredulous and my idiocy. "I know! I hadn't finished!" I protest, starting to lose my cool. Then, just as it seems the whole process is going to crumble into all out chaos, I find myself holding a ticket to Goa, on the train I wanted, in the berth I wanted, and maniac lady is smiling at me, suddenly all calm and serene. "Wow, that was easy" I say, and she smiles again as I leave her to go back into hibernation.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
He's got a ticket to ride
So, here we are again! A lot has happened since last we spoke, so I think I will just begin rambling and see what comes out. I've been in Mumbai for 2 weeks now, and I'm desperately in need of some space, fresh air, and silence... so I've booked a ticket for the crowded hippy holiday resort of Arambol, Goa, where those who've had enough of trying to find themselves go to find other people and have long conversations about finding themselves instead. Last time I was there was in 2003, so I'm a bit apprehensive as to what I might find eight years on... is there a McDonalds yet I wonder? Or at least a Body Shop... No, I don't think it will have gone that far... it will most likely still be wrapped nicely in the beautiful hand woven shawl of hippy consumerism... ;)