From Goa I took an overnight train to Hyderabad. I’ve been to Hyderabad only once – it’s a huge and busy Indian city. It was the first time, I believe, that I stayed there overnight though.
There were quite a few hotels near the train station, so after a short walk I’ve found a decent hotel with internet. It was quite noisy there since Indian families who are not familiar with Western ways tend to leave their hotel doors wide open and they tend to talk really loud with each other (Westerners would think they are arguing, but they are not!), and their children tend to cry really loud.
But that’s something to be expected in certain Indian cities, and unless you are willing to spend a fortune on a luxury hotel, this is something you have to learn to deal with.
At night it was quiet though, so I had a good sleep. I woke up a minute before my alarm went off, and at around 9 am I was on my way back to the train station to catch a connecting train to Kolkata as the airport was located in that city.
The train was supposed to arrive at Kolkata only in late afternoon the next day, so I had many hours yet again to spend on the train.
I’ve booked a 2AC train compartment which is an air-conditioned compartment with a bit of privacy due to curtains separating clusters of berths. On the train I had a good sleep and I arrived at Kolkata after the sunset, since the train was a few hours late.
I’ve been to Kolkata only once before. I always tended to avoid this huge city known for its traffic, noise and pollution. But this is where the airport was located for my next flight, so I had no choice but to head there.
The last time I stayed in Kolkata was as a connecting city, as far as I remember. Without being aware of it, I actually ended up, as a result of my search for a room, right at the doorstep of Mother Theresa’s Home! That’s where she ended up living in India.
Kind nuns allowed me to stay in a modest room for very little, compared to the prices I was quoted elsewhere, so I accepted their offer and spent a few nights next to the Mother House. I also had a chance to visit her museum located in the building; thus, I got to see her original clothes, some photographs, and her writings.
This time, however, I was nowhere near Mother Theresa’s Home. I did not want to go far from the train station because my next day’s connecting bus to the airport departed from there. Also, the train arrived at the destination too late, so there was no way I could venture out in the dark in search for accommodation – not in Kolkata!
Also, in such places Indian men are not to be trusted, and with women it’s impossible to speak, because, due to patriarchy, they are kept uneducated and thus don’t speak English. Thus, I was unable to get any advice of where to stay, and I had no Indian sim card to check Google Maps.
I was hoping to see some hotel close to the train station, but the station was surrounded by a wide motorway, with no hotel signs in view. Thus, my only remaining option was to hope for the availability of rooms located in the train station.
To my disappointment, all train station rooms were booked, so I ended up with no place to sleep! It’s not the first time though, so it wasn’t too much of a big deal. Thankfully, the train station was large with many seating places, and it was relatively clean.
In some Indian train stations it’s not as comfortable to stay, where huge rats continuously search for bits of food in overflowing waste bins and angry stray dogs bark at people. In one station I saw a cow helping itself from a waste bin, then a rat, and then a dog! As though they were all waiting for their turn to eat!
But this train station was relatively clean (by the Indian standards), and also there were many police officers around. So I felt safe and at peace.
The only real downside was the fact that Kolkata doesn’t attract many foreign travelers due to its pollution level and the high density of the population; so seeing a white foreigner is something amazing to them, and they end up staring at you as though you were an alien.
Most of those people are well-meaning, but it gets tiring and annoying when so much attention is directed at you. If you want to understand what it feels like to be a celebrity, move to India. You will then become compassionate towards singers and movie stars, because you will know what they have to deal with!
I had a nice meal at the station and when it got late, I sat down on a metal chair which served me as my bed for the rest of the night! I covered myself fully with my scarf to avoid any unwelcome attention, sat down in a lotus pose, and prepared for the night’s sleep. In front of me there were many people sleeping on the floor, as you can see from this picture:
I swear someone was directing positive energy at me when I was preparing to sleep, because I’m sensitive to such things. I looked around to see who it might be, and I saw a pilgrim looking at me.
He looked at me in such an innocent and benign way that it surprised me, because if Indian men look at Western women, it’s usually a look of ignorance mixed with lust. And I mean the kind of men who are uneducated, and not the ones who are of the upper caste (those usually don’t look at foreigners at all, or at least pretend that they don’t).
By the way, Kolkata is a holy town, so it’s visited by many Indian pilgrims from all over India.
I managed to get a few hours of much-needed sleep. As a traveler, you learn to sleep in the most unusual places and circumstances!
When it was morning I took a bus to the airport. In India you are not allowed to enter the airport unless it’s six hours before your departure. So I had to stay in a visitors’ lounge for many hours, since my flight was only at midnight.
I would rather wait in a tidy air-conditioned place, than spend time exploring the city of Kolkata. I’ve seen it already and I know how stressful it is to explore it. The reason I prefer staying in Kerala (a southern state of India) is because it’s the cleanest and most beautiful state in India, in my opinion. With the exception of this state and maybe Goa, travel in India can be stressful and very tiring.
So when I’m out of my beloved Kerala for one reason or another, I much prefer staying in airports and air-conditioned shopping centres than wading through polluted streets with piles of waste and having to deal with groups of beggars (in certain towns) who get angry at you when you offer them food instead of money.
Some of my old readers will be familiar with my past explorations of the most obscure Indian towns. I witnessed deep poverty, complete human ignorance, waste-filled cities where cows feed from garbage heaps dumped in the middle of busy roads. So no, I don’t like exploring non-touristy places of India anymore! I’m glad that I’ve seen what I’ve seen, but I would not want to repeat the experience!
I peacefully spent many hours in the waiting lounge, snacking on vegetarian momos and delicious cakes.
Since the start of my train travel to Hyderabad, I had to break quite a few of my diet rules due to the complete unavailability of healthy food in Indian train stations and other travel-related places.
Thus, I ate items containing wheat, sugar and milk. As a result, the skin below my lip got inflamed – this is what happens when I eat junk. I’m actually grateful that my body immediately reacts to junk food, as then I’m forced to revert back to good food habits!
My skin doesn’t react to milk though, but due to animal cruelty, injected hormones and fat content, I prefer to stay off dairy.
…Which leads me to another thing I wanted to update you about. I prefer not identifying myself as vegan because I don’t want this label to imprison me. Thus, if I find myself in circumstances where there’s no vegan food, I’m not going to starve myself just for the maintenance of this label.
It is human addiction to meat and dairy that causes unnecessary suffering to animals; tribal people, on the other hand, though being meat-eaters, don’t damage the delicate ecosystem as they don’t make animal hunting into a commercial enterprise, thus not taking surplus from nature and disturbing its delicate balance.
Thus, I don’t want people to think of me as a vegan who is against meat-eaters. This is definitely not the case, though I do desire people to indulge in such foods as rarely as possible, if they must. Also, in some climates where it’s so cold that no vegetation grows, without eating meat people would not survive, so does that make them evil?
I’ve noticed that when some people become vegans they tend to look down on dairy and meat eaters. So this label traps them in their ego and I want nothing to do with any sort of cages. I know meat eaters who are much better human beings than some proud and judgmental vegans.
Going back to the story, when I was allowed into the departures area of the airport, finally I got to sit down on a cushioned seat, which was a nice change from having to sit on metal all this time. Once on a flight, I slept like a baby and hours went by really fast.
Thus, I’ve arrived at a new country, and I hope to update you about my adventures there once I leave it; because then I will be able to reveal its location.