Another constant in my travel writing are apologetic pleas for readers to accept the fact that I am not a miserable traveler nor do I hate everyone. I just wish so fiercely to experience other people who have a genuine interest in open discourse without a constant attempt to appear superior to me or riddling me with politically minded questions about why my country is so strange to them. The US is awesome and I am always reminded of this when I inevitably hit a point, usually two weeks into my travels, where I just want some Little Caesars. I’m sure Nepalis traveling abroad throw their hands up after a couple of weeks and just want some dal bhat. We aren’t that different. While reading a book on the train the next morning I was reminded that travel is a constant yin and yang. I’m really not a huge dick, but traveling can be stressful sometimes.
American tendencies would block an urge to openly introducing myself to another tourist who is quietly reading. Indian travelers are not equipped with this same tendency. From around the pages of my book I noticed the body of an older Indian man sheepishly lingering within my comfort bubble. After the previous evenings one-sided conversation I was in no mood to start another discussion, but I had a feeling that this gentleman was interested in a very different style of communication. I lowered my book, moved my feet, and offered the man a seat next to me. He quickly introduced himself before asking where I had originated. He was very excited to find out that I was from the States and the conversation was on a roll. He was a pathologist specializing in agriculture and his primary concern was in commercially cultivated spices. He shared many stories of the Americans who helped to found the school where he worked, the buildings that they built, the funds that they gave, and the continuing partnership between the US and his school. He was a very interesting man but his excitement to share his stories with me was blocked by his English. Although we talked for quite a while I am sure that I only ended up with about thirty to forty percent of what he was trying to get across and he left very little space in the conversation for me in the way of probing questions.
Despite our conversational short fall he was very helpful in making sure that I got off at the correct station and went to the staff several times to check and recheck that my stop was coming up. Getting myself lost in India was not on my to-do list that day and what he lacked in English he more than made up for in reading body language. The train had begun to stop more frequently and he noticed my anxiety building. He assured me that I would not miss my stop and he delivered on that promise. A conversation that I had thought would result in me banging my head against the window until I fell through and onto the tracks ended in a friendly handshake and smiles. “Enjoy your time in India and good luck in Gorakhpur,” were his parting words
- Gorakhpur, India is like a smaller, dumpier version of Old Delhi. This is the wild west and I am was very lost and slightly terrified newcomer. Pollution and filth stick to you the moment immediately after disembarking from the station. The only difference between Gorakhpur and Delhi is that there are almost no tourists who come through this Gorakhpur so some of the English guideposts and conveniences are nonexistent. To say that my travel plans are at times chaotic does no service to the feelings that was over me when I arrive at a destination realizing that I had left myself with little in the way of a path to follow. I had prepared nothing to help me get from the station to a bus that would usher me to the promised land of Nepal. I was waiting for a Marty McFly -Back to the Future III one of the greatest movies of all time- moment to befall me, but I somehow managed to walk in the relatively correct direction and by way of hand signals, stick figure drawings and the always trusted dollar I managed to get within striking range of a bus to the border.
My bus was started and ready to go. I had arrived as if delivered by some grand design, but in fact it was my continual good luck that had dropped me at the door of the bus that would take me to the border. I was not on time. The bus was running late. The very new and very nice bag that was the safe keeping travel vessel of my new camera gear was stowed away in the bowels of a dirty, rusty and barely attached boot compartment at the rear of the bus with, what I could only assume were lead bricks, stacked on top. The seat that I had so graciously been given to me was at the back of the bus. India is not built for people my size. It is built for the 1.2 billion small people that live there. The standard seats on a local bus are not very comfortable. The back of the bus is reserved for the smallest, most petite of the subcontinent. Anyone approaching a standard sized human in the US would be incredibly uncomfortable back there. I got a ticket for the bench in the back. Fucking fuck.
This would not have been so bad if not for the woman who had purchased the seat directly in front of me and was determined to take up as much space as she could manage. She placed a wooden plank between the last two bench seats, thus closing off the bench in the back from the front of the bus. My knees became her back rest while the seats on her sides became her cup holders and it appeared to be nap time. This bitch took up every inch of space that her small body could possibly occupy. When a person is so rude that the people on a local Indian bus want to murder you have truly reached the peak of Mount Dickbag. I was in a clown bus on the way to a three ringer circus that was a grueling four hours away.