Today is my first train ride on the renowned Indian railway. It should be fun, even though I’m riding in air-conditioned 2nd class. Most avid travellers to India say that the real experience is to be had in 3rd class — free seating on not-as-soft benches, no air-con, but filled with the lower (read ‘friendlier’) strata of Indian society. 2nd class is where most middle-class Indians are found; you know, the ones who speak English, are tidy, dress well and who won’t simply barge into your face asking what you do for a living.
You know you’ve arrived/leaving your destination when you see one of these bright yellow signages.
I’ve already bought my ticket so I head straight for the Cloak Room, half expecting Harry Potter to magically appear on Platform 9 1/2 on my way there.
Everything is still very much analogue here.
Indian bureaucracy at it’s best … even here, I was shuffled between 2 clerks to fill out 2 different forms, just to get my bike sorted for carriage in the cargo car. Check out the shelf full of forms at the back.
T & C for 2-wheelers. The sentence in red refers to emptying the petrol in the tank. Guess that doesn’t apply to me.
Receipt, in triplicate, no less. Notice it says from ‘Calicut’ to ‘Cananur’, which is the old name for Kannur. Below that is the precise description of cargo — ‘One old used bicycle not packed’. I’m a bit peeved that they needed to add the word ‘old’ to my used bicycle.
And that, to my disbelief, is the extent of packing my bike ready for carriage as cargo.
Such wretched packing material. At least the good old Brooks saddle is well protected.
I have the privilege of sitting next to a retired Indian doctor and his wife. He’s dressed in impeccable white, as befitting one from the Brahmin class, and speaks impeccable English.
Even the ticket inspector is impeccably dressed.
At Cannanore, or Kannur, the porter wouldn’t even let me touch my bike as he wheeled it to the cloak room. They clearly observe proper security procedures here.
I seem to be attracted to palatial lodgings — I stayed at the Taj Mahal in Cochin, so I guess this isn’t out of place. Not too bad as princely accommodations go. Only 430R a night, no air-con, which frankly, isn’t really a necessity, as the air is cool and dry at night.
For the rest of the day, I explore the little seaside town of Kannur, ending up at a grand-looking cinema called Little Kavitha. As it happens, catching an Indian movie in an Indian cinema is something I really want to experience, so it’s Bollywood time!
At the box office, the ticket seller turned out to be the security guard with whom I was just chatting a while ago. That’s cheap labour, Indian style, I guess.
Not surprisingly, the movie is in Hindi, and with no subtitles. But the surprising thing is, I can actually understand the whole story (about a good guy who took revenge for the killing of his family by some bad people). Now, that’s what I call good storytelling. The other un-surprising thing is the rest of the movie-goers. The non-stop whooping, howling and whistling is just well … typically Indian. It’s a longish movie, too, almost 3 hours, but with a considerate interval halfway for the cancer-stick addicts to take a break from the whooping and howling.
Ok, ‘Watching Bollywood movie in India’ … Tick.