One morning I woke up to this. I was in the lower bunk of an overcrowded sleeper car traveling back to New Delhi from the Mango Belt. Rob is in the middle bunk just above me, out of sight. There are three tiers of bunks, but that’s not enough to hold everyone.
In northern India, train conductors rarely check who has tickets, allowing a surplus of extra bodies in the train car. At night the lower class cars tend to be a tangle of sleeping bodies splayed along the aisles with stray feet sticking out at strange angles. Making a nighttime trip to the toilet involves picking through a maze of limbs in the dim light and trying not to step on anyone’s fingers (or face).
I’ve only experienced trains this crowded in the northern parts of India. When we traveled in the south, the conductor came around to collect tickets and each car had more or less the number of people it was designed to hold. If I were to travel in the north again, I would definitely give up the pleasure of a fresh breeze from the exotic countryside to sit in the well-regulated, air conditioned classes. But waking up to all these smiling faces peering at me is a memory I’ll hold dear forever.