By the time I arrived in Mumbai, I had a fever of 102f (I keep a thermometer and a small first aid kit in my toilet kit). Every deep breath and cough caused a powerful, sharp pain in my lower lungs. I was sweating and shivering at the same time. I was panting and slightly delirious. I suspected pneumonia – or worse.
By now, my fantasy of “Overnight Train to x x x ” has been exposed as poor romance, frustrating adventure and less than ideal transportation. Guess what? The overnight train from Mathura Junction to Mumbai reset the template. From the moment of arrival on the platform at the Mathura Station, to getting down on the platform in Mumbai Central, it was the train ride I’d been anticipating but didn’t find between Delhi and Varanasi – or between Varanasi and Agra.
The arrival platform at Varanasi was no less tumultuous and disorderly than the departure venue at Delhi the night before . . . utter, absolute, overwhelming chaos.
This was not the deluxe train I’d expected. The carriage was probably 40 or 50 years old. Everything was the same shade of pale green one sees in the below-ground corridors of hospitals and governmental buildings around the world.
It is a scene that Bruegel might have painted in a fever or Dante reserved for one of the innermost circles of Hell.
I had spent too much time shopping in the Karol Bargh Market and the other in Paharganj, followed by a final afternoon enjoying rest of the fantastic Delhi Metro system, that I did not get back to the Megha Sheraton, to pick up my bags, until 5:10pm, almost 1/2 hour later than I had been advised. That put everything at risk. I was to pay the price, literally, in sweat and rupees.
This modern transit system (Delhi Metro Wikipedia entry) is a hugely refreshing surprise. It’s also a bit humbling. I don’t know a single city in all the USA that has anything of this size and quality even under discussion . . . and Delhi’s system here is almost 90% complete. See the Delhi Metro web site. And here’s a photo gallery that shows how modern, clean and comfortable the Metro system is in this “impoverished, third-world” country.