1/1/2010 to 1/5/2010 | Gujarat , India

Bhadran to Goa: Flying Kites & Roughing it on the Rails

I typed in my PNR number again not wanting to believe what the computer monitor had just showed me.  Same result waiting list #1 unconfirmed.  My train to Goa was leaving in a little over an hour, the chart had been made there was no chance I would move up on the list and get a confirmed berth.  I shuttered at the thought of sitting on the floor for the 18 hour journey from Baroda to Goa.  In my mind, I retroactively cursed the man who had sold me the ticket two days earlier for not being able to sell me a foreign tourist quota seat, despite berths being available under said quota, me clearly being a foreign tourist, and the man selling the ticket residing behind glass that read among other special quotas, “foreign tourists.”  The portly mustached man had defused my anger at the time by telling me that I would be number 15 on the waiting list and had a good chance of getting a berth.  It was true that chances are usually pretty good when being that low on the list for a sleeping class berth.  Unfortunately for me I ended up on the wrong end of that chance, even if it was just barely, the result was the same, no seat.

I went to Uncle Sam’s Pizza to think over my options and fill up on their 150 rupee (a little over $3) all you can eat pizza deal.  Ok the pizza is a small step above microwave pizza but it’s a change from rice and dhal, and I haven’t lost my ability to do some damage on any all you can eat deal.  The immediate options were clear enough either I get on the train and try my luck or I look for a hotel in Baroda and go somewhere else tomorrow, likely Amedabad, perhaps return to Kutch, and area of western Gujarat I hadn’t been since my 2004 trip to India.  I had had another nice time in Gujarat, a state I always tell people is particularly underrated when it comes to tourism.  My last couple days had been spent in the nearby village of Bhadran, hanging out with my friend Vinay at his father’s ancestral home.  Bhadran was unlike most villages I had visited in India.  The large number of NRIs (Non Resident Indians) who originally came from Bhadran, but were now spread across the world, made it a much more affluent place than most villages of its size.  The community living abroad had pumped money back into their town in the form of civil projects.  Sewer systems, water towers, hospitals, schools, and roads were all funded not through government institutions but rather by direct private donations.  Bhadran’s clean narrow winding brick paved streets lined with restored colonial inspired buildings gave the village more the feel of a European town than anything typically associated with India.  Looking out over the rooftops of this Europeanesque Gujarati village, Vinay and I attempted the local pastime of kite flying.  It was the weeks before the Gujarati kite festival, a day when the rooftops are filled with kids and kids at heart flying kites and battling their neighbors in kite wars for supremacy of the skies.  Getting the simple plastic kites, made from recycled wrappers and sticks, airborne turned out to be a task tougher than the local neighborhood kids made it appear.  After watching us struggle from below as we ineptly attempted to fly our newly purchased kites a few of the local kids joined us on the roof top and with a few well timed flicks of the wrist got our kites in the air.  We even managed to cut a few kites loose winning a couple aerial battles.  Of course I use the word “we” in the same sense sports franchise owners use it when they win championships, and producers use it when their film wins an Oscar.

As much as I liked Gujarat I was still feeling the tug of the ocean, I had been thinking about life back on the beach since I had left the mountains of Nepal three weeks earlier.  I was also looking forward to meeting up with my friend Mohan (from Sikkim) who was staying on the beach in Goa with his soon to be Irish wife, Carol, and their daughter Lily.  I decided to try my luck on the train.  Fortunately the train was not as crowded as it might have been, there were still no berths available but I was able to find a place to sit in the entry way of one of the sleeper class cars.  A less than enjoyable 6 hours passed while I dosed in and out of consciousness, until the train emptied out a bit at 4:00 am after it passed Bombay, and I was able to snag an open berth for the remaining 12 hours to Margoan, Goa.

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