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The International Writers Magazine - Our 20th Year: India - From Our Archives

The New Dehli Train Station
Paul Haire

The huge New Delhi train station towers ahead of me but before I reach that I have to cross the ocean of bright yellow auto rickshaws that form a fat snake on the road in front of me. I finally reach the station and stand in the massive entrance hall as people mill around. No signs anywhere show the way to the foreigners desk and touts are making it impossible to concentrate. My helpless searching is attracting them like flies.

A stocky young man in a white shirt aggressively asks me for a ticket but I ignore him, he comes up close asking 'are you crazy' pointing to his brain the whites of his eyes right in my face. I continue ignoring him and stand motionless. He persists so I finally move away and he drops away eventually. He is soon replaced by another tout and then another. A big fat man grabs me as I try mistakenly to enter the departure gate, and shouts at me if I understand English like I am stupid. Finally, a small man with an ugly brutish face and beatles mop top becomes physical when I ignore his directions to the 'government approved ticket office'. It is all an unsettling experience and I leave shaken and on the verge of tears.

Returning to the hotel I feel defeated and hopeless, but the thought of having to spend another day in Delhi forces me back.

I psyche myself up on the walk along paharganj's main thoroughfare as tourists browse, and shop owners prepare their shops for the evening shift.

I scan the building once it comes into view making my way once more across the car park. Then in the corner of my eye I see the tout who was the worst and catch my breath, luckily he doesn't come over.
Then I look up at the building one more time to try and see any signs or anything I'd missed that might give me a clue to where the elusive 'international tourist board ' is and shining like a beacon in huge white letters, on a huge blue sign is - 'International Tourist Bureau', I almost relieve myself with joy. How stupid could I have been? I had even seen one of the signs before, but in my confusion it hadn't registered.
Now, I stride forth confidently, my self belief restored and I find the office with ease.
Slightly disapointingly no-one bothers me this time.

However, the final hurdle has yet to be overcome, Indian bureaucracy. I have to fill out a laborious application form and wait in a complicated queing system, to receive my ticket from a complicated booking system. But I receive my ticket nonetheless and am literally so happy and filled with relief that I am shaking. I glance drunkenly across at the other travellers in the waiting room who look nonchalant and nonplussed with the whole experience whereas I am a quivering wreck. Am I the only one that India does this to? ?

I consider shouting 'I am 'never, ever, ever, returning to this shit hole EVER again' as I leave, but I resist the urge and just decide to have a beer at the hotel in celebration instead. Travelling around India is proving to be somewhat challenging.
© Paul Haire May 2009

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