South India. Day 7. Calicut to Kannur by train.

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.

Calicut Kozhikode railway station

You know you’ve arrived/leaving your destination when you see one of these bright yellow signages.

 

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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.

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Everything is still very much analogue here.

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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.

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T & C for 2-wheelers. The sentence in red refers to emptying the petrol in the tank. Guess that doesn’t apply to me.

 

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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.

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And that, to my disbelief, is the extent of packing my bike ready for carriage as cargo.

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Such wretched packing material. At least the good old Brooks saddle is well protected.

 

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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.

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Even the ticket inspector is impeccably dressed.

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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.

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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.

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P1140998For 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!

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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.

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