India, Bhutan and Nepal travel blog

A long train and I am not even at the front!

Rice paddy fields

A 5 Rupee Store


HIGHLIGHTS

• To the tip of India – Kanyakumari

• Make another balls-up

• Meet two very nice men

DETAIL

I hate getting on a train when its not the originating station as well as getting off when its not the terminus, both can test oneself – this time it’s the former. The problem is where to stand waiting for the carriage you're to get on. When standing at one end of the platform I can hardly see the other end of the train as is so damn long! I had overheard a German asking where to stand so I ask at the enquiry desk where to stand. He’s right-on and the B1 carriage stops right in front of me.

No whities on this train and get the stares so, as usual I say, “Good Morning” and receive a mild reply. After the customary third degree the questions turn to politics. They ask me some questions but no, I open my big fat mouth and tell them what I think about the tragedy and disaster that struck Mumbai. Silence. I say, “Well I guess I will go back to my newspaper" and read about the latest: nine kids run over due to excessive speed. Shouldn’t have asked me!

The train picks up a young man and he opens his laptop. I look over and see and think, ‘IT’. I carry on reading about the rhetoric and the Indian hype.

The train pulls into a station and the two guys I pissed off start chatting what they call Manglish, a combination of an Indian language (over 250) and English with the young man who’s bashing away on his keyboard.

The two start to shake hands goodbye with me and I stand and say, “So, you are all in IT eh?” “Yes”, and nice yes so I say, “I was in the business for 43 years”. Jaws drop.

They get off and the young man sitting to my side slides over and starts talking. “So, you were in IT for 43 years” and for the next hour we have a delightful conversation all about punched cards and the like. “Oh, I had to do that when I was at university, study the history of computers”. He’s intrigued.

Turns out he’s a Muslim, very well educated and is a business analyst and works for an Indian software company developing Financial Software. He is the new breed of Indian but still with traditional family ties, married to a doctor and chooses to say in his homeland rather than going to the Middle East to make money.

His company develops software for Muslim banking. “Muslim banking?” says I and now it’s my turn to be intrigued.

His turn to leave the train and he gives me his business card with his personal email address and tells me to call him if I run into trouble. I am moved by his generosity.

Only about forty-five minutes to my station so I get up and go to the carriage door, open it and stare out at the beautiful countryside. People are working in the rice paddies fields and many white cranes having breakfast. I have left the state of Kerala and now back in Tamil Nadu, a very weird shape due to negotiation between the two states: a deal made in1954. Not sure who got the best deal!

I get out and it’s hot but not humid – it’s a lovely heat. I can’t be bothered to walk so I take an auto-rickshaw to the hotel. It’s not the one I chose but I check the room and it’s OK and not exorbitant. I only book for one night and go and check the one I wanted but it’s a run down dump.

Kanyakumari ‘feels’ good so I decide to stay put for three days. I go back to the train station and get the next two legs and then wander around and get to know the place.

Kanyakumari is a holy place for Hindu’s and there are many devotees here and realize, oh-oh, it’s the weekend. What the hell, I will not let a silly thing called a weekend to spoil it so I wander through the bazaar and see the equivalent of a Dollar Store however this is a 5 Rupee store (12.5 cents).

I check out the times for the ferry to the island which has a huge statue of a Hindu Monk who was also a philosopher and then wander down to the Ghats and along with all the devotees sit on the wall overlooking the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Ocean and the Sea of Bengal and although there are a few thousand, it’s peaceful. It’s a place of worship and what a place of worship.

About a couple of weeks ago I decided that I would keep Rupee coins and give them to beggars. I mean what’s five cents for God’s sake. The only problem I what does one do when one has fifteen rupees in ones pocket and is confronted with three beggars: one is blind, one has Polio and one is an old woman? As warren Buffet once said, “It is easier to make money than give it away”. And although I don’t have billions, I understand the question.

So I am sitting on wall, sand at my feet, families, groups of school children milling around and this old woman comes by. I take out five Rupees and she looks at me and puts her hands together and keeps repeating something. A young girl tells her to go away and I nod my head side to side and say it’s all right. “I am he” – The Walrus.

There’s a father, mother and daughter sitting on my other side and she goes up to him. Initially he doesn’t respond then gives her some money. She blesses him. Ten seconds goes by and he starts up a conversation with me.

We talk for an hour, mainly about spirituality and the relentless pursuit of money.

I sense that he is ignoring his family so I bow out graciously and go and buy Saudi Arabian dates as dates are supposed to be good for an upset stomach. Not only have I not lost any weight, I have put some on especially with the fried nibbles!



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