Friday, November 10, 2006

Tamil Nadu

It rained for 3 hours of the 7 hour train ride south from Bangalore to Coimbatore, my half way stop on the trail to Zen. The 2nd class sleeper, no bedding provided just bare pvc covered bunks and barred, slatted windows, was full of human cargo and redolent with piss. Water was leeching through the window frames to mix with seepage from other parts of the carriage and run across the floor like oil legs on a hot griddle pan at around 5am when I de-bunked and got ready to detrain. Those 3 hours of rain translate into about 200kms of track. Solid, dark, murky foetid rain.

I readied my pack to step down and noticed a pocket right on the bottom which had never caught my attention before. It contained a blue rain protector which handily covers the whole pack.

Out onto the dark and grimy platform, seemingly covered in a disarray of things resembling wool sacks, red LCD clocks and notices flash a dubious and dissonant welcome. A walk through the platform underpass becomes a wade as brown water inches its way out of some unseen opening to cover the floor. The women in front dawdle under their huge head balanced loads. Those of us behind feel the murk swish tepidly around our feet. Everyone is feeling squeamish, you can see it on their faces, but there is nothing to be done, it is a moment of displeasure in what for many must be a life full to the brim of far more distasteful matters.

It is surprisingly calm in the early morning gloom of the station entry hall. Crowds just outside huddle under the roof awnings in the hope that this rain will peter out soon but the road cutting left to right across the view of hotels, broken pavements and swamped autorickshaws is actually a torrent. A cow, silhouetted by flourescent lights and neon flashes, is in the middle of the street up to its knees in the rippling flow.

Three police sit at a wooden desk, one dozes head down stll grasping his cane. I ask the other two the way to the hotel which they have never heard of. The woman corporal laughs at me softly, shyly, to her colleague. I have taken off my flip flops, rolled up the jeans and thankfully drawn up my hood for the river crossing ahead.

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