At 04:30 I got a shaky awakening as Jin shook my leg because I failed to hear my alarm go off. At least he had to get up too so I didn’t feel so bad about it. he was going to a fish market and I needed to get my ass down to the station to catch a train to Aurangabad. Rune was still in some kind of coma as he had been out drinking with friends that night so he only stirred once. I still needed to get everything back into my backpack without a decent light as I didn’t want to disturb Rune, I promise you that getting that my patience has not been created for getting a sleeping mag in an XXS cover. It took me at least 20 minutes of swearing and hardcore sweat to get the thing in!
When I was ready to check out and head towards to station I walked downstairs and to my horror, in the unlit hallway I saw a shadow laying across the floor underneath the stairs, I didn’t really want to walk past in case it would jump up and grab my ankles! What a great imagination I have haha. It turned out to be the man of the reception desk, I checked out and headed off into the for once completely deserted streets of Mumbai. At 05:00 AM this is a whole experience in itself. I lost count of whether there were more homeless people sleeping on the ground or rats running about, I was too busy trying to manoeuvre around them without drawing attention to myself. As I was in a deep focus mode I didn’t take any pictures of the station so excuse me for that.
When I finally made it to the Victoria Terminus station I got stared at from all directions, I seemed to be the only female there and the only Westerner with my big backpack full of possessions. I had made sure I was at least 15 minutes early so I would be able to crack this train system I had never used before. It quickly got more difficult when every single notice board was in Hindi and every person I dared to approach for help would tell me I needed a different platform. Time was running short and then I saw that the trains had not only alphabetical names but were also coded numerically. I finally figured it out and made it to the platform, it took about 5 minutes to get to my carriage as the train seemed to be about 1 KM long. When I answered it was empty except for a young girl with her dad and baby brother. They kindly helped me to my seat and getting my backpack up in the compartment as it was so heavy and high.
After every stop, the train got fuller and fuller, and the seats were made out of what seemed like metal plates so my behind was getting extremely sore. I was trying to read my book in the train but I could feel everybody’s eyes digging into my soul so I couldn’t really concentrate, so instead, I did as the locals did and started staring back and watching what everyone was doing. It was quite entertaining. During the ride, the little boy was somehow fast asleep on my lap, during the whole 8-hour journey he didn’t make a fuss once. Whilst the train was getting busier and people were piling on each other’s laps salespeople, beggars and holy ladies started walking through the carriages, I could have sworn I was at a market. During the entire trip, the doors were left open of course, so people could get comfortable and let their legs hang out and relax. During the whole journey, I was so tired and I Had to really concentrate on not falling asleep again as I had all my stuff with me and was sat on a train packed with people. I was counting down the hours till I could finally sleep, except then something happened. At Nashik station we stopped for over an hour, I honestly think the train driver was taking a nap. This meant I would need to wait an extra hour before I could have mine!
When the journey was finally over and the same man helped me with my backpack, I got out of the train and I was approached by a lovely Indian family who offered to help me find my way. I am still extremely grateful for their kindness, I I hadn’t already had booked a pickup through my hotel their help would have been an absolute blessing.
When I got into the driver’s car he immediately started to try and sell me tours, if there is something I dislike it is affiliate sales. Immediately makes me distrust people. He was the son of the owner of my hotel and a couple more throughout Aurangabad. When we arrived at my hotel and they tried to charge me for the ‘free pickup’ advertised on their website I laughed in their faces and congratulated them on their brilliant hostmanship. I did not pay them for those of you still wondering.
The hotel itself was run down, to say the least, when I got into my room I was horrified to find it in an extremely dirty state I even got out my baby wipes and started wiping all of the surfaces down. The door had a loose lock that I could probably crack open myself. I tried to embrace the situation and move on but there was something else nagging in my head too, the fact that my meditation centre still had not emailed a confirmation to me. I had been trying to contact them for weeks but no one would reply to my emails or answer my calls. No I had an Indian phone number at least sometimes someone would answer, but when it was clear to them that I was not speaking Hindi and they could not speak English they would usually hang up. Was this really going to fall through? This was the whole reason I was in India, the whole reason I made that long journey from Mumbai to Aurangabad.
When trying to sort it out my phone decided to break. My screen stopped responding completely. I was trying to suppress a panic attack as I had no other means to book journeys or hotels o contact anyone. I was worried that if I would get my phone repaired (keep in mind that there is a Brand new phone waiting for me back at home in the Netherlands) I would get completely ripped off and it would cost me 2 weeks worth of backpacking funds. I went down to the hotel owner that picked me up from the station, he very kindly got me some lunch which I couldn’t eat because I felt so physically sick, and after taking me to a phone repair shop in the city. I made him promise to go in with me and make sure he would ask how much it would cost. Thank the holy cats that my phone was fixed straight away and it cost me as little as €2,-. Whilst my phone was being repaired the guy from my hotel had to drop the car off at his brothers, he then came and picked me up on his motorcycle. On Indian roads. Whatever possessed me to get on there behind him is beyond me, I think I needed a shot of power and a feeling of adrenaline, to let go of the stress I had been feeling just moments earlier. Not o sound cliche but feeling the wind through my hair as we raced down the streets and between the cars was exhilarating. Sorry, I’m not sorry mum and dad.
Once back in my room I got an epiphany: WhatsApp the guy from the Vipassana meditation centre, if he couldn’t understand my spoken English he might have more chance at understanding written English. My plan succeeded, he understood me and said that my application had been declined because of ‘mental and physical state’ I called him out for this nonsense as I only take mandatory medication because I have a chronic disease and that I applied because I need this chance to better myself and my life. He then replied that he was sending a confirmation email to me. I have a strong feeling that this was some sort of test, to see how bad I wanted that place for this course. Now that was sorted I could finally just about relax, except for my room situation and a stalking hotel manager who was ringing me and knocking on my door the whole time.
I do believe that everything happens for a reason, but why all of these stressful things needed to happen at once? One day I will tell you what I have learned from this experience.
I saw that Jin, one of my roomies from the previous night had messaged me. He asked me whether I would like to tour the Ellora and Ajanta Caves together and hire a driver as it would save money and be slightly more enjoyable to have someone to talk to and share the experience with. It was so strange that not even an hour ago I was thinking how wrong everything was going and now everything was falling into place. So weird. I was honestly extremely grateful that for the next 2 days I would be able to tell the hotel manager that a male friend would be picking me up and we would be spending the day together. At least he wouldn’t be able to hassle me as much.
After we had made arrangements for the following day I needed to come back to myself so I put my earphones in, played some Drake and just chilled out before falling asleep. This was a very stressful day for me.