The Elephant Cloud


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Morning Chai

May 6th, 2008 by · No Comments · Asia, India

I woke up this morning on a train crossing the Ganges Valley in India. The day was already hot when I moved from the air-conditioned coach to the open doorway, but the movement of the train kept it fresh. I stood watching kids playing in the fields, waving to us as we passed, a hot chai in one hand, a warm samosa in the other. I slept well and stretched to welcome a new day.

Last night we stiffed our driver after he flew into the parking lot a few hundred meters from the train station. We had minutes to catch our train and the old man, a faithful hare krishna, ran from his car to fetch a young porter, who then raced us on foot, thru alleyways and across parking lots in total darkness to the station.

Running up the stairs, we learned out train was an hour late. Lucky us.

Or so we thought.

We tipped the porter and sent him back to the driver to thank him and explain. The old man came back to us beeming and we tipped him well.

It wasn’t his fault we were late; in addition to the ever-present traffic, there was massive construction five kilometers from the station. (There were also blinding sandstorms, but they stopped when it started to pour.) The clock reset to noon everytime he powered off the vehicle, so we weren’t sure what time it was, but could more or less add up the minutes passing us by. While he sat in his seat, his face buried in his hands, we formulated plans B and C, which were mercifully unnecessary.

At the station, the hour delay turned to two, three, and four plus. Each time the departure time encroached, it disappointed. We sat on the platform, perched atop our backpacks staring into the tracks, fighting sleep, and waiting for that train.

Under the stale warmth of the platform lights, the scene was pretty banal, minus the adolescent three ring circus piled high over the bench of two young female travelers and the wily bearded man with a grain sack that found infinite jest in pestering a young man for his plastic bottle. Meanwhile, we were the quiet center stage in a sea of stares, engulfed by dropped jaws and devoted awe.

When I finally laid down in my berth, sleep came fast and as the train rattled along India’s rails, I knew there was no where else I wanted to be.

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