January 20, 2012


After a overnight train journey from Mumbai, I arrived in Ahmedabad at around 5 in the ante meredien. I had foolhardily booked the lower bunk in a sleeper compartment of the train. Lower berths are recommended for security reasons. It is easier to notice if someone is purloining your luggage from right beneath your bed than when you are two bunks up, far detached from the happenings below.

The drawback is that you get little to no sleep, as a continuous stream of passengers without beds, seats, tickets, or manners uses your bed as their own. I was forced against the interior wall of my compartment, able to maintain possession of approximately 40% of my allotted sleeping area. The remaining 60% of the property was captured by a rotating set of 22 different individuals of various ethnic backgrounds during the 9 hour journey. Thankfully, the maximum number of people sitting on me at any given time did not exceed 5.

I groggily tumbled out of the train at Ahmedabad Junction and walked into the station's waiting room. The seats all seemed to be occupied. A strange mix of a hospital waiting room and a morgue, I wandered around the piles of bed sheet covered bodies sleeping on the floor and found one man taking up two seats. I grunted and he grudgingly moved his duffel bag as I took a seat. I reached into my backpack and dug out my trusty blue travel pillow. As I inflated it with several deep breaths, the sleepy eyes of the other travellers suddenly shifted towards me as if I was the most peculiar sight in the room. I placed it around my neck and slept soundly until daybreak.


"Man should forget his anger before he lies down to sleep." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

January 05, 2012

Hands On Experience

Indian guy: Are all you foreigners like this?
Me: Yes.
Indian guy: This is weird, yaar.

A conversation about cultural differences between India and the West that had centred around the usage of coconut oil versus gel for hair styling had segwayed into man's favourite topic.

Indian guy: I had heard before that abroad people wipe their a** and don't wash their a** but I never believed it until you confirmed it.
Me: It's true.
Indian guy: This is very unhygienic. You know, after going to the toilet you should wash.
Me: I always wash my hands afterwards.
Indian guy: Not just your hands...
Me: I use toilet paper for that. I wipe and I wipe until the paper is white. That way my hand stays clean for when I eat. No poo stuck in my finger nails.
Indian guy: We don't use the same hand for eating. God gave you two hands for a reason! And what about your underwear? Do you wash that?
Me: Once in 3 months.
Indian guy: Ugggh. What about in airplanes? Are there Indian style toilets there?
Me: Nope. 
Indian guy: Not even on Air India?
Me: No. Maybe you can use the water from the sink and slosh it around.
Indian guy: My god, this is horrible. I am learning new things today that I never imagined before.

After several moments of quiet contemplation, he had the last laugh.

Indian guy: You know all the pretty Indian girls. They also all use their hands.

January 03, 2012

Arnab's Year in Cities, 2011

The year 2011 began with New Year's celebrations in Seoul with my hostel mates. I soon returned to China, wrapping up my 2.5 year odyssey at the end of May. I came back to Canada in time to attend a friend's wedding, and spent a few months there job hunting and soul searching. After securing a position at Teach For India, I set off on an expedition through Southeast Asia. A couple of months later I was in Mumbai, joining the noble movement to end educational inequity.

All told I stayed overnight in 25 cities in 2011, far fewer than in 2010 or 2009. I atoned for this by reaching double digits in countries visited in a year for the first time:


A whole new world
Don't you dare close your eyes
A hundred thousand things to see
Hold your breath - it gets better
I'm like a shooting star, I've come so far I can't go back to where I used to be

~ "A Whole New World" from Aladdin ~