If you want somewhere to watch people go by, then I would highly recommend Indian Railways. Indian Railways is the world’s biggest employer with over 1 million staff so wherever you happen to be, there will always be someone or something to watch.
I’d finished checking my emails and been reproached for working whilst I was on holiday. I had to chuckle to myself but resisted replying that if my colleagues back it the UK could see where I was, then they would understand why I was distracting myself with work.
I was on the platform at Mathura station with about 2 hours to kill. There’s not a lot to do at Mathura station and my taxi driver had told me there wasn’t much to see in Mathura, despite my suggestions that there might be some temples. It was hot, there wasn’t anything immediately obvious to go and visit, so I decided that I would find somewhere to wait until my train. I’m usually happy with my book, somewhere to sit and the occasional person to strike up a conversation with.
It all sounds pretty good – so why did I need my Blackberry distraction? Once I’d identified the right platform I followed the hoards over the footbridge. I did a lap of the platform looking for somewhere to sit. Unfortunately, unlike many of the family groups, I’d neglected to bring a blanket to spread out on the platform and form a base for a full on picnic meal. This was the only train journey which for some reason I didn’t have a confirmed seat, and all the while I was a little concerned that I’d actually cancelled my reservation (a story for another time) so I was hanging out near the notice-board where they pin all the reservations. It was too early for the details of my train to be printed, but that didn’t stop me checking.
Eventually I crept closer to some seats and pounced on a space when some other travellers were preparing for their train. I soon realised why no one else had grabbed the seats. If I turned to my right, there was a small pile of rubbish. This in itself wasn’t too bad and if I kept focused on the notice-board on my left I could put my head in my book, as well as being able to check the seats reservations when they came up.
But what’s this? A white cow was wandering my way. This is no joke. If you’ve never been to India, or similar places, you won’t quite appreciate how much cows are revered, and the places they get to. So here I was sitting on a platform in the middle of a fairly busy railway line, with a cow coming towards me. “Daisy” fortunately meandered round me to have a nose in the rubbish pile, looked up, had a sniff and decided I wasn’t worth bothering with. Before I could get my camera out, she was making her way further down the platform – presumably to the first class area.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I pulled my belongings closer to me, but not before a movement caught my eye. I watched as a rat snuck out from under a catering stand and ran over to the rubbish pile, had a good root round and then scampered back to the stand. This activity was repeated quite a few times as the sun was setting.
So there I was, sitting on a now dark platform, unable to read my book with no human conversation, and surrounded by a stray cow and a rat. This was my holiday, I reminded myself. I’ve chosen to be here. You’ve got to laugh, I thought and I wouldn’t change the experience for anything.
It’s these unexpected, but undoubtedly real, times that make travelling so rich, give you great stories to tell and help you learn about the world and yourself.