Fifteen hours on two trains, accompanied by R and C, a chainsmoking cataracted old man, a small family with two English counting kids, a tiny, four foot nothing old woman in a luminous green sari, an orange turbanned guy seated on the floor, and a whole host of other characters first to Kalka, and then on to Delhi, the temperature rising the further down the mountains we got.
We were going to have to spend an inevitable day traipsing to and from the embassy, but before that FF and I went to the Red Fort, the National Museum and the Ghandi memorial – a museum crammed full of the most hyperactive interactive displays you have ever seen, and uber-keen staff who wouldn’t let you leave a room until you had literally tried everything. Our minds were well and truly filled with the evilness our mother country had committed to India. We had become convinced that being British = being evil.
When we’d first arrived here, Delhi had been completely overwhelming, but now it seemed much more manageable – we weren’t sure if this was because of the Commonwealth Games – there were more police and no one seemed to be scamming us as hard. Or maybe we were just getting ‘acclimated’ as one of the Americans staying at our hotel described it…
One of FF’s friends, a Northern Irish sports broadcaster covering the Games for the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Times hosted us for dinner, and we rested up, ready for the onslaught of begging the embassy to give FF a new passport ASAP.
Poor FF. It was a long day, and she saw lots of very upset and desperate people, including a girl who had had her bag stolen from a sleeper train, and had had to abandon her tour group to get it sorted alone, being ripped off by taxi drivers left, right and centre. She lent FF enough money to pay for a new passport and her distress also meant that their passports were fast tracked. Then there were hoards of Afgan refugees in the Indian Visa office. And a South African who aslo needed money or who would be stranded.
All day people offered amnd FF gave multiple kindnesses, which, had one small bad thing not happened to us, we would never have experienced. Travel, it seems, is not just about new sights, sounds and smells, but about the wealth and richness of experiencing humanity in all its varieties, and finding compassion in strange, unexpected but just-at-the-right-time needed places.