2nd March 2016

I was awoken at around midnight or something, by someone knocking on the door. I listened to it for a while but still was half asleep. I think Sve answered the door and it was her roommate back from her flight. She's a stewardess at INDIGO. I peaked out of my room and when she saw me she was obviously surprised, but didn't even bother to say Hi back to me or smile and be pleasant. Just went off to her room and I too went back to bed.

Morning I woke up at my usual time, got dressed and collected my stuff. I am off to Goa. Excited because I have never been there. I have heard so many things about the place,about it being a wild and crazy ride. I guess I would find out soon. Since my phone wasn't working, I messaged my couchsurfer host from Sve's computer about my arrival details. He gave me directions and instructions to get to his place, but I wasn't that confidant. I always have a knack for getting lost. Besides, this is the only host I am staying with who is not a single woman. According to what I gathered [assumed on my own with no solid facts actually], this is a Portuguese mixed Indian man, living in Goa with his wife and family. I was invited by a few other married couples, but none of them confirmed my stay. This guy invited me rather, seeing my public request and offered me his place. So since he is married and all, I don't think I would have to worry too much right?

I tried to switch on my phone, but it wouldn't work. Oh dear Lord! My phone is busted for good ! I had this problem before I came to India with this phone. The guy I gave it to fix said that the problem was with the battery and I replaced the battery. It cost me LKR5,000 for that. Now the same problem has come up and I was not planning to spend another LKR5000 = INR2500 ! Oh Shoots! What am I going to do now? I just started my trip and my phone breaks. Not only can't I contact my family, but any hope of me taking pictures and sharing them on social media is gone. The whole point of me buying a sim with a one month internet package was that I could keep on updating my trip on social media. I didn't pack a camera since I had my phone. Now I wouldn't have any pictures to post on my blog even! Oh Damn!!!

Once I've told Sve about my phone being broken, she was very helpful with contacting my family in Sri Lanka and making sure I was OK throughout my journey. She even took down the number of my Goa host, so that she could call me once I get there to find out if I am OK and then she could call my family and tell them I am fine. She was such a good host and such a sweet and kind person.

On our way in the Auto rickshaw, we talked about our lives in the 2 countries. About the similarities and yet how different they are. At the Express Avenue, we said our goodbyes with huge hugs. My first experience with a couch surfer was a great success thanks to Sve. I would recommend her to anyone as a Super Host.

...and I was off to the Chennai Central. Start the next phase of my journey.

Off to Goa.

 

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Chennai Central Train Station

I came to Chennai Central at about 8.30am or 9. My train was at 11.30am. I had plenty of time. But didn't want to go gallivanting around Chennai city and maybe even get lost only to miss my train. The night before I thought I could, but now that my phone is also busted, it wasn't a good idea. While seated at Chennai Central, brought back memories of the first time I was here. 2010 December 11th. Maybe my memory was bad or that, a lot has changed since then. But somethings don't. Like the people sleeping on the floor until their train arrived. Or the advertisements on the tv screen telling people to wash hands before eating Or to drink clean water. At a smart phone age, I am still surprised to see Indians being told to wash hands before eating or to drink clean water. To me it's plain common sense. But maybe to these people it's not so common. I mean the advertisement on the screen shows a woman applying Kajal on her baby for protection and then implying "just like the Kajal protection" you have to filter your water before giving babies, children or adults. Isn't that like normal practice? Would people, like how it is shown in that ad actually throw garbage at the same place they keep the drinking water? Surely Indians are not stupid? Who would drink dirty water or purposely dirty the water, keeping the pot with the garbage? Anyhow, keeping aside the social aspect of the advertisement, it was done quite cleverly. It was entertaining.

The seating at Chennai Central is clean than what I remembered. And there even were cleaning staff mopping the place with electronic mopping machines. Quite improved. I looked around for places to eat. Like Sve mentioned, there were enough places to eat. Small stalls all over the place with various types of food, mostly Indian, to sell. I could have my breakfast here, but maybe not. Finished my Lays leftover from yesterday, it was a big pack I bought and my Maaza. And then the crackers from Sri Lanka [ I packed up a few packs of those before leaving Colombo ]. I brought a plastic bottle with me when I came to India. So I could carry water where ever I go. That would save me money in buying water and also I was sure of what I was drinking. Even if it's bottled water, I didn't trust them from the streets or any other public place after watching the movie Slum Dog Millionaire. I didn't mind refilling my bottle from a reliable place or a house I am staying at and carrying it.

Killing time was a little hard since I didn't even have a phone to take pictures or to play games with. But I could take out my map and plan out my trip. The Chennai Central station has many notices saying to be aware of thieves. There are even pictures of these said “thieves” for people to recognise if they see them. Therefore, I couldn't leave my bag and go around even if I wanted to. Kept my luggage bag on my lap, wrapped my handbag around my right arm and I kinda took a nap resting my head on the luggage bag while seated at the station. Though it was dry season, it wasn't hot for me. When I left Sri Lanka it was so hot that, even Chennai seemed cool & comfortable !

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My ticket from Chennai to Mangalore. Cost me INR460/=

My train was the West Coast Express. Leaving Chennai at 11.30 am from Chennai Central and arriving at Mangalore Central at 3.55am. I took a sleeper class, non AC, hoping for a good night's rest on my first trip on a train this time in India. The train left right on time. I asked the lady officer who booked my ticket to get me a window seat. When I got to my seat, it was a window seat but... was one on the side of the corridor. These seats are made as 2 half seats so that you could fold them and make 2 chair seats to sit on. One for the sleeper passenger on top and one for the bottom passenger.

This is how the seating arrangement is in an Indian Train. There are clusters like this continuously in the entire carriage and duplicated in other carriages.

seat1

This is how a single cluster is set up

seat 3

This is the corridor seat set up. On the top image its the one on the right side window. The bottom seat "seat 2" is what I got :(

seat 2

the seats on the other side

I hated it as soon as I saw it. I didn't want to share my seat with another person. And more, being on the bottom means everyone would step on it to get to the top bunk. Not that there were no climbing arrangements. There is a ladder to get on all bunks. But, I guess like they say it...It's India. Also, as this was on the side of the corridor, it was a bit uncomfortable. But then again, I bought the tickets at the last minute so at-least I should be glad to get a seat at all. Still I was disappointed :(

A few miles on the journey, there was this Indian guy who happened to be the passenger on my top bunk. I just ignored him as there wasn't anything special about him. Just an ordinary young Indian man as the rest of them. On the other side, was a dark elderly man looking at me on and off which made me quite suspicious :/ Here I am still being paranoid and not wanting anyone to recognize me as a tourist. The man on my top bunk was sharing my bunk for seating when he wasn't sleeping. He was a fairer skinned person, I guess someone originally from the northern parts of India. I am still a little tensed in people finding out I am Sri Lankan as the train started from Chennai and many Tamil people were in it. Until I get out of the Tamil Nadu state limits I am cautious as I didn't want any unwanted trouble.

The man who shared my seat , I think , thinks of himself as a stud. First he was showing off his smart phone and talking to someone in Tamil. In the meanwhile peeping at me to see if I am taking any notice in his conversation. Maybe he thought I am Tamil. Jokes on him as I was dumb as hell when it came to Tamil lol. Just kept on with my cool and looking outside the scenery as it's my first time travelling from east to west of India. Across India in the south. It is indeed a beautiful sight and I regretted every moment of not having a camera or my phone not working. There were so many pictures to take. Oh well...

As we came into the state of Kerala it was beautiful. Just as you enter the state you start to see the difference between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It's not only with the language and how people dress up. The nature itself was very different. The trees are so lush and green comparing to the dryness of Tamil Nadu. It reminded me of Sri Lanka , in fact it looked very similar. I understood why travellers are so crazy about visiting Kerala and I personally have been asked to go there by my friends who have been there. If I hadn't had other plans, I definitely would have stayed atleast a night here. Must include a stay here in my next trip.

Now the man who was sharing my seat was sort of getting tired of impressing me with his Tamil. From the way he spoke, although I am not a Tamil tongue, I could say he wasn't an original Tamil speaker. If he is not talking on the phone, he would call out a vendor and buy something. Just find SOMETHING to talk or make sound about. Eventually he changed his language to speak in Hindi. Now the problem was because I am understanding the Bull Sh** he's talking about. Oh God! He was soooo full of it. He is talking like this big businessman, a very busy person with so many things to take care of and so many places to be at the same time. Seriously!? I continued to be completely dumb struck and ignored him.

Because of the way the seats are set, I removed my shoes and kept my feet on the seat. There was no other comfortable way to sit. And then this guy was copying me! He too took his shoes off and took his legs up. Yuk! I mean this is a dirty Indian man. I had my socks on and he just had dirty feet! Mind you, this is the seat I will be sleeping on and this man is keeping his dirty feet on it! I was disgusted. But didn't want to make a fuss [Sigh, negatives of travelling alone. I wish I could fuss though]. At-least I could breath easy that, his feet are on the other end of the seat where, my feet would be when I sleep. Just went on ignoring. Then this man brings his feet forward towards me and even on my side of the seat! What?!! Then I reacted. It was more like a “disgust reflex”. I just told him 'No'. I spoke in English and told him "this is my seat don't keep your feet on it". Finally he kept on behaving. I was annoyed I had to share my seat with this idiot. Afterwards he did try to bring up conversation in English but I kept ignoring.

This is my first train ride on this trip. It was an overnight trip. I am un communicate-able right now as my phone is not working. I was worried. Hopefully my tracker on the phone works so that my family back at home know how to find me. I was also worried about finding my host's place when I get to Goa. Let's hope that there are pay phones at the train station so that I can call him. I wrote down the telephone numbers of all my hosts on the back of my Tirupathi hotel bill the night before leaving Chennai.

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That is a comfort that I atleast have them. Because when I lose my phone I pretty much loose everything because everything is saved on my phone.

It's going to be a long ride on this train to Mangalore.