What are the differences between 1st class and General Class?
My stomach sinks. I knew India was cheap, but 2 dollars for a 7 hour train ride? I glanced at the tickets, which said only “General Class”.
I’ve only been standing on the train platform for a couple of minutes, but already I feel the curious and leering gazes from the on-lookers on the platform. We’re the only “tourists” on the platform. Three foreigners and 3 brightly colored backpacks among a sea of villagers and their burlap bags. As a train arrives in the distance, Paul remarks with a triumphant look on his face. “Oh man, I love India. It’s so cheap! Three tickets for only 2 dollars!”. My stomach sinks. I knew India was cheap, but 2 dollars for a 7 hour train ride? I glanced at the tickets, which said only “General Class”.
As the arriving train grinds to a halt, the chaos starts. Entire villages worth of people are running each way, kids screaming, chickens clucking, elders keeping them in tow along with luggage and such, each jumping to board the various black rusting boxcars. As the engine roars and the train starts to depart, we find what we think is our boxcar, and I leap on as it moves, pushing through passengers blocking the entryway, trying not to fall back onto the moving platform. Some of them help me on, and I finally gain my footing as I cram inside. Paul and Arnaud are “safely” on as well, similarly dazed and confused, similarly crushed between a group of teenage locals, but in one piece.
We finally get into the General Class compartment
The train picks up speed to a now-dangerous level, and I start to push though the crowd in the entryway to grab some seats, the heat of smell of a mass of tightly mushed people starting to sink in. And it hits me: there are hundreds of villagers crammed into the boxcar, with only a couple of benches as “seating”. The entire car is staring at us in silence with wide open white eyes, mesmerized. The background sound of train-chugging now becomes crystal clear. A chicken clucks and grazes past my leg, and as I adjust, I accidentally kick a group of pots on the floor. They clang in silence. Eventually a curious kid asks “What country?”, to which Paul replies “France”. An affirming chorus of whispers and grins finally fill the void. The three of us share a tired smile. 7 hours to go….