Perhaps I spoke too soon when I said Egypt was good preparation for India. It’s still true in some aspects, but in the sleeper train department it couldn’t be further from the truth. Taking a sleeper train in India—even the tourist/business-class sort—is an adventure in itself. Whereas our sleeper car in Egypt was small but private, the train here is like a moving hostel with seats that fold out into bunks and an open, community aspect to it. If the Indian gentleman across from you has a snoring problem, you will know it. The bathroom is a Western-style toilet planted over a hole that goes straight through to the tracks below. This means that going to the bathroom is not only a deafening experience because you hear all of the sounds from the tracks, but also very breezy…if you get my meaning.
As I sit writing this particular entry, the car jostles from side-to-side and the constant swaying is accompanied by the dull roar of the ancient vehicle’s progress against the tracks. I am surrounded by what appear to be middle-class Indians who chatter lightly amongst themselves at times, but mostly sit in silence. A small boy makes silly noises just to hear the sound of his voice against the noise of the train. A coffee wallah makes his way through the narrow aisle calling out “coffee” in a funny English accent. Though the mere whisper of the word would have me jumping at the opportunity, I am not so certain that my sense of adventure extends to whatever liquid ochre resides in that big, battered tin jug that he lugs around. I will have to wait until we reach Jodhpur.
We finally reach Jodhpur and explore Mehrengarh Fort, which was founded in 1459 and rises above the city of Jodhpur on a massive mound of red rock. Below it is a sea of homes, many of which are tinted blue to signify the dwelling of someone of the Brahmin caste. Yes, the caste system was technically abolished insofar as the legal and political recognition of equal rights for all members of society, but the system lives on as a deeply ingrained part of Indian culture. From what I understand, it is a system that makes sense to them, creates order, and defines every person’s role in society. I cannot judge this too harshly for after all, it seems to me to merely place a formal classification on a class system that exists in every society I’ve encountered.