Yes Gandi is the film that I was reminded of last night on our train journey from the Historic city of Varanasi, to Agra the former centre of Indian rule (100's of years ago).
If you can picture a prison.. then fill it to the brim with Indian Procession goers.. you have an idea of what it's like to on the Agra train during the Hindu ???? procession weekend in Agra.
In India the system for tourists is that you buy your ticket at the tourist office in the station and you are assigned a bunk. We had heard from numerous travellers that 2nd class sleeper was the way to go.. 1/2 the price of first class for much the same sort of thing. Perhaps not on this particular weekend. In this instance.. the whole idea of 'a bunk' went out of the window.. with people occupying every available area.. it meant sharing a 3 ft by 6ft bunk with at least another stranger and a backpack... not the best for a 13 hour train journey. Not only that but there was a serious amount of cheering and slogan shouting going on from the more political carriages.. like ours.. jnp (or what ever the ruling party is currently). It was in short a little testing of ones nerves. Jason and Emma faired significantly worse than Roisin and I who had managed to get top bunks.. which meant that only one person was willing to try and share your bunk, by sitting on your feet. They had mostly 2 others.. and the ones opposite.. and I mean around 7 spent the rest of their time either trying to annoy Jason or Emma to get some sort of reaction. They also stared incessantly at Emma. The reason I started this with Ghandi.. is I remember distinctly in the film the words.. this is India Sir.. you are in India now.. this is the way (or something approximating to this)... this was about the same thing.. Jason was being told that he had to share his bunk.. the train was full what were they to do. Emma had the same.. and Roisin also. I took the make like a bag approach and ignored everyone for 12 hours. No-one bothered me and the man at the end of my bed caused me inconsiderable amounts of hardship. All in all not somethign that I would like to repeat in a hurry, but could have been worse. Like we could have been mortally threatened... it did feel a little clostrophobic and scary at times.. but you just had to take a deep breath and accept your position.
So we left at 6:30 pm and arrived at 6:30 am into Agra Fort station. We quickly found somewhere to stay (for around 1.10 dollars USD! for a single for me ). We then had breakfast and set out to see the red fort. A truly amazing place. It was the home to many rulers in it's time and had many palaces and gardens added to it.. I can't really put into words what it was like, but it was cool and relaxing. It was also here that we discovered the tip of the ice berg in the photo phonomenon. For some reason.. people love to be photographed with us.. for their families at home they say.. like they have never seen a white person.. I guess some might not have done. they are always REALLY nice about it (oh and I should say in the midst of everything last night on the train.. the people were REALLY nice about it mostly.. apart from a few hooligans... they were reasoning with Jas/Em/Ro in great English and tryign to persuade them that this was India.. not the NZ/UK/IRE respectively.. we also played cards with some of them earlier).
During our tour we found out from an English couple that the Taj Mahal is now 10 USD, not 20 USD. WHich is a fortune in India... and actually it was free this afternoon from 2pm and till Monday, because of the festival. So off we went.. and I have to say.. that and I dont' want to seem like a right cissy.. but it was Unbelievably beautiful and all the more so because it was purely created for love. The Raj Loved his wife so much when she died (I'm getting goose bumps again) that he built it in her honour. It is without doubt one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Even though it's 10 dollars we're going back in the morning to see it at Sun rise.
So back to the earlier photo thing... and I know that I sometimes exagerate.. but we had our pictures taken at least 50 times at the taj in around an hour. People would hound us as soon as we sat down to have a photo taken with us... it was quite weired.. nice at first.. then somethign like a celeb must feel.. like ENOUGH ! Eventually with around 10 people following us.. we tried to make our way out of the Entrance (rather than the exit). The guards saw our persuers and helped us through the gates.. pushing the rest back.. it was quite bizarre. Hopefully these revellers will not be around tomorrow at 6 am. One thing we're eternally greatful of is that people don't drink.. they're mad enough !
Then I think we will be off to see the Ghost town that's outside of Agra.. and possibly stay there if we can.. then back and off to Rahjestan.. or rather Jaipur is the town.
I heard from Pete Headley this morning so definitely heading out to Thailand in the next 2 weeks, via Goa.
This is Peel signing off.
P.S. Please don't get the idea that I"m not enjoying India. It's a bit like a roller coaster... sometimes it's amazing how cool it is.. but there is an aweful lot of other stuff to put up with to make it to it. I'm sure that I will be a convert when I get back and want to return.