Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Midnight Express: A Survival Guide

Anyone who has ever seen The Darjeeling Limited most likely pictures trains in India the same way I used to: with steam engines and people hanging out of the doorways, wooden compartments with sliding doors, and a woman who offers you fresh lemon juice. Or if you're really like me, you picture the Hogwarts Express winding through open land, palm trees rising out of the paddy fields as dusk closes in.

We took four night trains while traveling through the state of Karnataka - to Mysore (where the women in our group got groped by our tour guide - thanks, asshole!), Hampi (world's third largest archaeological site, and a haven if you wear ali baba pants and stopped wearing deodorant back when you learned The Man tests it on koala bears), and Bangalore (where we drank Pink Ladies at a bar called Nasa. The inside looked - yes - just like a space shuttle, except for the picture of Michael Jackson framed lovingly behind a glass window). So I thought I'd take a moment to tell you about night trains and how to survive them:

1.) Expect the cockroaches. They will crawl across your face, and if you didn't take dramamine like a good little traveler, you'll wake up screaming with its head in your mouth.

2.) If there's a guy who wants to switch beds with you to "sleep closer to his bag," don't switch with him. It's a long train ride, and watching him get all pissed off because he's a mama's boy who didn't get his way is better than HBO. Plus his bags are probably full of illegal content. Maybe you can siphon some heroin from his duffel before he wakes up.

3.) Drugs are your friend. Take dramamine. Go on. Take another. Take some Tylenol PM while you're at it. And don't forget your malaria pill, and two immunity boosting mushroom pills, and your birth control...

4.) When the tea guy lumbers past your bunk at four in the morning yelling, "COFFEESIR! TEASIR!" don't throw things at him. Don't groan, either, or he'll assume you want some hot milk with a tea bag thrown in for good measure and will not leave until you give him the desired five rupees.

5.) Get up at dawn, go to the bathroom area, and look out the door at the end of the train. The gold light touching the land in a sleepy haze is one of the most beautiful things you'll ever see in your life. Then use the bathroom and relish the fact that your urine is falling straight through a hole to the tracks below. Train time fun for everyone!

I'm starting my orphan endeavors this week. So far I'm a babysitter for fifty girls of different ages. Jesus, take the wheel.