Mark: Time 0640 Platform 14, New Delhi Station. Crackling over the 1950s style loud speaker: “We regret to announce that train 12497 the Shane Punjab Express is running two hours forty minutes late. This delay is very regrettable”. …
We had been on the station since 0600 ready to navigate the largest station in the World. Each train consisting of over 20 carriages (500m) in length with early morning commuters literally hanging on to carriage roofs, jammed in every door way and clinging for dear life on to anything that moved.
So that was that then! The sea of Indian faces looked resigned to a long wait. “This happens all the time” said an old Indian gentleman, his head wobbling from side to side, reminiscent of the chap in the 1970s sitcom “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”. I nodded and asked if he had ever travelled recently by South West Trains…
Next to us on the platform was a small family. A you girl, aged around 16 came up to me and explained that the train had not been cancelled – good news – but had been rescheduled for 0930. She smiled, went to her Mother and came back with two steaming cups of Chai – sweet tea consisting of tea, ginger and cinnamon. She offered them to us both. A touching moment.
And so we had met some new friends. Garima Dahiya’s family – Mother, Grandmother, Auntie and Niece were all travelling on our train to Amritsar and planning, like us to visit the Golden Temple and attend the Border Ceremony. Suddenly she started delving in her pocket. Out came a plastic cellophane bag with a friendship bracelet inside – a red and yellow wrist band made out of string and beads. “In India, sisters give special bracelets to their brothers for safekeeping. I do not have a brother. But you are now my English Brother!” She then promptly gave me her last bit of newspaper so that Sarah and I could sit on the filthy platform beside her family! There were no seats.
This family did not have much, but what they had, they shared. No questions asked, nothing wanted in return. I was embarrassed and humbled and promptly marched off to the kiosk on the station, jossled my way through the crowds of people and bought a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate, a Kinder Egg a lollipop and some chewing gum. I distributed them around the family and we had a strange, early morning breakfast, in full view of a man relieving himself off the station edge right in front of us. He was, quite literally “taking the pxxx”!
FOOTNOTE ADDED NEXT DAY TO THIS BLOG: UNBELIEVABLE – we were walking away from the Wagha Border ceremony the next day. The crowd of 10,000 people left. We had been in the “VIP” Section because of our British Passports and left in the twilight. Who should shout out, “Mark, Mark”? Yes you guessed it. My Indian family! What were the chances of that? See the end photo on this blog.
The man we had to thank for booking all of our trains in India we’d met 12 hours earlier at our hotel for lovely vegetarian curry. Mahendra is the General Manager of Trinetra Tours. It was his company that had looked after us so well on our visit to India in 2014 when we had a bit more of a budget to spend on hotels and travel. Trinetra is a superb company which puts customer service first. They are professional and just lovely people. Mahendra and his family are now our friends and looked after our Frimley friends Richard and Tricia Daw so well earlier this year when they came on holiday to India. So, ladies and gentlemen, if you EVER go to this wonderful county, I am of course happy to pass on tips. BUT do, through me contact Mahendra at Trinetra Tours- www.trinetratoursindia.com as you will have the trip of a lifetime. And irrespective of what you spend, be it £100 (10,000 INR) or £10,000 (1,000,000 INR) you will receive a superb value for money service. Trust me, I used to be a tour operator.
As I shook Mahendra’s hand to say good bye, we promised to return again one day and repay his generous hospitality when he comes to England whenever that may be. Namaste!