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First Nights on Indian Trains

From Goa to Bangalore

View Sydney to London 1964 on Ozac's travel map.

Saturday 26-9-1964

Up early, but missed the only morning bus from Calangute. We had to walk miles in searing heat to the bus stand in the town. We caught an antique little bus to the ferry at Panjim and this ride was by far the most interesting part of the day. The bus was crammed to capacity, so I managed to get a close up view of the people of Goa. The seashore villages were full of activity and this also was fascinating. I decided that Goa was the place to write my first article about. We got the ferry to Panjim, then made our way by various means to Vasco de Gama. The train to Hubli was to leave at 5.30 pm. We got window seats and settled down for an all night session in the train - I have never spent a more exhausting night - it was crowded, uncomfortable and I got no rest at all. The train was so slow and we had an hour’s wait at Londa for a connection, during which I slept a little on the platform. The second train was hardly any better. We arrived in Hubli at 4.30 am Sept. 27 after 11 hours in a third class Indian Railways’ carriage. We sat on the platform until 6.30. The day’s diet had consisted of boiled eggs and bread for both breakfast and lunch and omelette and bread on the train. Nevertheless the day was the most expensive yet.

Sunday 27-9-1964

We spent 6 hours on the Bangalore Road this morning, waiting for a lift. We finally got one only 80 miles to a dump called Harihar. We will get a train tonight from here to Bangalore. Hang the expense. I am just so tired. This will be the second successive night on a train. Let’s hope to God it will be better than last night.

I can remember seeing a film called Bhowani Junction, about the Anglo-Indian conflict. Harihar is just such a station. Low platform, rusty brown railway cars on sidings, Indians running all over the tracks, hot day, and a tired and dirty old town surrounding all. The atmosphere captured was true.

Hubli almost made me sick. We walked from the station out onto the Bangalore road, through one of the dusty, poverty ridden areas of the town. It was the morning crap hour, being demonstrated in the street every few yards, and feeding time for the hogs. I was almost physically ill.

Monday 28-9-1964

The second night on a train was not too bad, compared to the night before. At Harihar station we met George ---, an Englishman who was touring India after spending three years teaching in Ethiopia. He was by now at the same stage we are - so sick of being asked endless questions that we have started to make things up for the heck of it. It's sometimes hard to remember what's been said in the previous breath however, so you must be very careful that you don’t contradict yourself. The train left at 8.30 pm, and because we were travelling more than a certain distance we were allowed to get into a sleeper (III Class), and this was not too crowded. I rolled out my sleeping bag on the floor, and that is where I slept. It must have been a deep sleep, as Ade told me in the morning that at one station people were trampling all over the place, and I did not wake up.

Bangalore at about 7 am - We had breakfast on the station, and set out to find a post office, as Ade wanted some of the new Indian stamps. (insert: we invaded the A/C & 1st Class waiting room at Bangalore Station, and were not turfed out).

We first looked for a PO that was supposedly in the slum area, but no one could tell us where it was. Go to the GPO! Trudging through the dusty slum area of what we had heard was a very clean, up to date, and progressive city, gave us a bad first impression, but then we got over to the administrative and business area of the city, and our impression changed. The buildings are huge, new, and many are not too badly designed. The Secretariat is immense and imposing and not too ornate. After Ade had finished with his PO business we got a rickshaw to R.A. Mundkur’s residence (the contact Mr. Ramdas had given us in Bombay). It was quite a well-to-do home. In Australia it would be a pleasant, well-kept suburban two-storeyed house. There were two black cars in the driveway. We met Mrs. Mundkur, gave her the letter, she rang her husband, and we proceeded to his office in the black Ambassador. His office was that of the Home Guard, Bangalore Division, and he turned out to be the Commandant General, something similar to our Commissioner of Police in Sydney.

Mr. and Mrs. R. A Mundkur

Mr. and Mrs. R. A Mundkur

He was very helpful. Sent us to the Director of Tourism, sent us around the city in his car, put us up in his home for the night, arranged for our visit to the game reserve at Bandipur, and gave us a reference in Mysore to his brother-in law, the President of the Air Force Selection Board.

* * *

It is absolutely impossible to predict what will happen to us from one hour to the next. Our fortunes go up and down. One minute we are giving up hope after waiting hours for a lift, the next we are in a comfortable car speeding to our destination with a friendly host who gives us lunch and drops us right where we wish to go. One night we are sleeping on the floor of a III Class railway carriage, the next in a comfortable bed in the home of the Bangalore Commissioner of Police, with our every need attended to. One thing always seems to lead to another, seldom have there been dead ends, but it is impossible to predict where any one thing will lead.

===Ozac 2011===

Hitchhiking is a true game of chance, and the odds are usually stacked against you, but our very first hitch in India had proved a winner, and it paid a further dividend here in Bangalore. We could not believe our luck. We had no idea what to expect when we bowled up to the Mundkurs’ home with the letter of introduction, and Mrs. Mundkur must have received quite a surprise to be confronted by us. As we were being driven in the black Ambassador to Mr. Mundkur’s office we noticed there was a furled flag on the bonnet, and when we turned into a grand driveway and pulled up in a porte-cochere, the car door was opened by a uniformed guard. A highly polished brass plate beside the imposing entrance told us where we had been delivered, and we entered uncertainly, but when the initial formalities were out of the way Commandant General Mundkur did not hesitate to offer us his hospitality. He was a generous host, naturally more relaxed at home than in the office, and his lovely wife was warm, caring and very motherly to us. I have never forgotten them. All that was a long time ago, of course, but I have found the building with the porte-cochere, still there, and I note that the Bangalore training facility for Fire and Emergency Services is the R A Mundkur Academy, testament to the high regard in which he was held.

Posted by Ozac 21:34 Archived in India

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