Sunday 6th September: Resting back in Delhi
Best night's sleep so far on a train, although even so, it was interrupted by a fight, a very vicious fight. It seems to me that Indians seem to flare up very easily. For example, at the hotel I had ordered drinks which after a very long time arrived, but without my change. My change had still not arrived by the time I wanted to return to my room so I went to ask for it. The manager started to yell and shout me. The fight on the train was more than shouting, it was also physical. Punches were thrown.
We were scheduled to arrive in Delhi at 10:30 but as we had been two hours late leaving I estimated arrival at about 12:30. In fact we didn't arrive until 14:15.
Delhi was hot. I found an auto rickshaw with a metre!!! This seemed like a pleasant surprise. The driver solicited my business, and wary of the risk of being overcharged, a cab with a metre seemed like a good idea. I got in, but the driver promptly went off for a drink. A policeman came over and asked where the driver was, I told him I wasn't sure but that I was now fed up with waiting and got out. The driver was back in a flash. After about 500metres he stopped to "top up the brake fluid". I was more than annoyed. This sounded dangerous. Why hadn't he done that before taking a passenger I asked. Anyway we set off again. I was worried about whether he was taking me the right way as I had never been through Old Delhi before. But I needn't have worried.
We arrived back at Golf Links and the metre read Rs6/-, which apparently meant Rs8/10 - he showed me a chart I didn't understand, but I wasn't going to argue. I got out and gave him a Rs10/- note. I waited for my change. He said that he wasn't giving me any, I owed him another Rs/2, one rupee for each bag. This time I did argue. I saw his charge card, the one he had used to increase the fare from Rs6 to Rs8/10 and saw that the maximum charge for bags no exceeding 30kg was 10 paise. I pointed it out to him and agreed on a total of Rs8/30.
It is very nice at Golf Links with Ben's relatives, but I feel a twinge of guilt. Here I am accepting luxury, free accommodations and yet travelling India trying to experience the lives of the locals.
Tomorrow I am flying to Amritsar. I have read in the papers that the Punjab is suffering draughts and severe power cuts. "Severe power cuts!!" How can they be worse than elsewhere in India? Anyway, I'm flying because I don't have time to go by train, although it would be cheaper - covered by my rail card. Most of the trains are slow, overcrowded and often stand for long periods in the stations. The points are all controlled by manual rods and levers from the frequent signal boxes. There seems plenty of scope for upgrading the signalling. increasing then number of trains and reducing capacity. There doesn't appear to be any shortage of passengers even though the trains themselves are potential death traps.
Most trains are overcrowded, the windows are barred and the exits, few and far between, are only accessible via narrow, congested corridors. It is not surprising that Indian railway accidents are frequently so horrific with such large loss of life. The chance of getting out must be very slim, in some cases zero - especially with the inevitable panic. Best not to think about it.