The Train from New Delhi to Beas, to Amritsar and back…
If you look closely at the bottom photo, you will see two orange-red thermoses of hot chai. This is one of the features I love about the train. Included in the ticket are frequent tea times with a package of chocolate or coconut cookies and regular sandwich service. I drank six cups of hot tea in the six hour journey but preferred to snack on my own chocolate and almonds to avoid possible GI upset. The carriage carried multitudes of Sikhs on their way back from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This is where the Adi Granth lies, the sacred book for the Sikh religion.
The train left the station around 6.30 a.m. but we were there at 4 a.m. to get ready for the brief five minute stop in Beas. If the luggage is not on the train in that five minutes, you are out of luck. The train will move away from the station. It’s not much time to get a small but heavy suitcase and a rolling bag onto the train and stashed in the luggage racks. (Look over the heads in the photo.)Part of the challenge in getting settled before the ratchety, crotchety old 1940’s train rattles out of the station, is the congested passageways from masses of people getting on, off, or just standing around. Pushing past people and through narrow train doorways with two pieces of luggage offers a challenge in patience. Assertiveness is the name of the game. Once on, we had to find room overhead. That’s not easy. It takes some negotiating with pleading eyes and hand signals to get passengers to open up space. The next challenge is finding help to heave one heavy bag and a rolling bag overhead. One is dependent on the good graces of others. The bags must go overhead as the aisles are excruciatingly narrow.
After this sweat-inducing effort, I felt a premature sense of relief., but within seconds of departure, the train lurched and I fell into one of the white silk-robed bearded gentlemen who happened to be sipping his morning tea. Yes. I fell into and knocked over the open thermos of hot tea and saturated his silken white prayer outfit. Horrified, I raised my hands in salutation and begged forgiveness with more eye, hand and head signals (head leaning to the side, face scrunched up in horror, eyes sorrowful, palms together) like a desperate tourist. He nodded his head in forgiveness and smiled radiance. What a relief. I snuck back to my seat feeling small. Quite small indeed.
At this point you might be wondering why I took this journey.
For almost four weeks, my friend and I traveled to Beas to a gigantic ashram (large communal village with spiritual principles) which sits just past Jullundur, on the way to Amritsar, in the northern Punjab.
What I did there and what happened there is a story for another day.