Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gorakhpur Nightmare and Foggy Bhairawa Goodbyes

Cooped in a mini-van, we sliced through a very thick admixture of fog and smoke as we headed towards Gorakhpur. There was 10 feet visibility – and the adventurous imagination of the driver. The landscape passing before us cut a dramatic, albeit surreal scenery as I breathed the cold fumes through my mouth. My morning in Bhairawa turned out better than what my day was yesterday. With the people mostly asleep, everything around me looked dreamy and gentle. It was, once again, like driving into a dream.

I reached the border at 7AM and whisked in and out of the immigrations of Nepal and India like I was reciting the alphabet. The 2 men at the Indian border looked either disinterested or lethargic, but I was overjoyed by their lack of interest. Later, I joined a mini-van of 13 people going to Gorakhpur for my train connection to Delhi. Another 16-hour travel in a train of strangers. Shivers.

Gorakhpur was a different matter altogether. I’d place it somewhere between a painful dental surgery and a muted nightmare. Not only did I lose the 1st “fast train “ticket that I bought, I also found out I didn’t know how to use it. It was a very cheap ticket at 159 rupees that somehow allowed one to travel to any destination, at least that was what I was told. But I needed security. I wasn’t sure I could get a seat in this 16 hour journey back to Delhi. That wasn’t good. Help around Gorakhpur train station is wanting. There was no one to ask. The lady at the old counter 811 kept swatting people off her counter. The administrative people at some rooms looked like I was a hovering mosquito that needed swatting. All in all, Gorakhpur turns out to be an unpleasant experience for me – and for the other foreign tourists as well. Ask the 2 hispanic ladies who were raving mad, moving back and forth for 2 hours like me.

Counter 811 that Lonely Planet was referring to (the Reservations Center’s foreign tourist counter) was nowhere in the the Gorakhpur Train Station. It moved to a new building some half a kilometer west of the station (turn right from the entrance, and walk to the next 3 blocks). Joining a queue of Indians who don’t know the meaning of 1st-come-1st served basis was harrowing. I wanted to slap them all and teach them how things are done in the civilized world. Look at this old man who was behind me. He berated several guys who broke the queue. Then when it was my turn, he jumped ahead of me. Talk about rules that they selectively follow when they fit them. This was nightmare.

My Vaishali Express train leaves in 2 hours. I am tired and hungry and there’s no decent restaurant anywhere along the main road. They were all weeds and plants and spicy vegetable fodder. I am in mini-hell. I will sleep off all these feelings of disappointment. I will, after all, be in Delhi tomorrow. Akshardam Temple, here I come. 

This is the Eye in the Sky.


Anonymous said...

I wish not approve on it. I over precise post. Especially the appellation attracted me to read the unscathed story.

eye in the sky said...

Hey. I'm not sure I understand what you disapproved of. That was actually a harrowing experience for me - so that was a painfully honest account of my experience in Gorakhpur. I blogged this entry at a computer shop just outside the Train Station a few hours before my train left for Delhi. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

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eye in the sky said...

My pleasure. Let me know if you need more info for your assignment. I'm afraid it wasn't steep with details enough as I was focusing on the narrative experience. Good luck with your studies. Your message is one of the amazing reasons why documenting my travels through this blog makes it so worth it. Cheers!