Second Class Unreserved

 

Second Class Unreserved!!

Who would have thought it?

Me on that living nightmare!

Don’t get me wrong.

I liked Indian trains. Didn’t need First Class or Tourist Class or anything like that.

Second Class was fine.

I mean, Second Class Reserved.

Not Un – Reserved.

Hell no!

Here’s the deal for Second Class Unreserved: an unlimited number of tickets are sold. Once you have a ticket, you get on the train anyway you can. Your options are: being crammed inside a carriage like sardines in a tin or sitting on top of the roof or hanging off the side of the train along with hundreds of others.  

Second Class Unreserved is for poor Indians.

I got on that train because I didn’t have any choice. Like, none.

How did I end up on it?

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Your Country´s Burning! Part 2

 

EXCERPTS FROM MY TRAVEL DIARY

May 2005; Adelaide, State Library of South Australia:

An account left to us from a British colonist arriving in my state South Australia early one morning in 1837:    
 
‘ …Before next day’s sunrise, a great change took place in the landscape before us. The watchers on deck beheld a fire on one of the hills which seemed to spread from hill to hill with amazing speed. All on board were now awake and on deck looking at this grand, and yet to those who knew not its cause, fearful conflagration. It seemed as if the whole land was a mass of flame. The whole range was as black as midnight, except where the trees were still burning.’

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´Your Country´s Burning!´ – Part 1

It was on a Saturday night in January 2020, shortly after Anya and I had returned from a month of walking in La Palma. We´d arranged to go to Anya´s niece´s place, who´d invited some friends around for the night.    

It was meant to be a pleasant, convivial evening.

But thanks to me, it turned out a bit differently.  

 

It started with flamenco and ended with aboriginal fire stick agriculture.

Quite a distance to travel in a few hours: Spain to Australia.

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Yolanda

 

On arriving at the outskirts of the city of Cebu (the capital of the island of Cebu) after a long bus trip, we got a taxi to the airport. The airport was on the opposite side of town. We thought the taxi would be quicker than the local bus – as it turned out, a completely unwarranted assumption. Even though it was early in the afternoon and on a week day, the traffic was bumper to bumper. 

Our taxi driver seemed upbeat about the traffic. Like many Filipinos, he spoke English – and spoke it quite well.

When we asked him why the traffic was so heavy, he exclaimed incredulously:

‘You don’t know?’ 

We said we didn´t. 

Voice oozing disbelief, he proceeded to enlighten the dumb tourists. 

‘There’s a big religious festival in Cebu this weekend! People are arriving from all over the country, even overseas!’

I guessed that the taxi driver was a proud native of Cebu.

He wasn’t. 

He was a man making the best of a bad lot.  

No shortage of them in The Philippines, but this man had a cross to bear. Yolanda had ruined him, ruined his life, and yet he still managed to go on, driving his taxi into a land called Hope…..

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Our Lady

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‘Vailankani?’

It was a tip from Mr. Ramamurti, the manager of the budget hotel where I was staying in Pondicherry on the south-east coast of India.

I stayed there for almost a week, not because I found Pondicherry so interesting, but rather because when I arrived there I was very sick. I’d come down with a bad case of dysentery and limped into Pondicherry with no other aim than to find some place where I could rest a while and recover.

And recover I did thanks in no small part to Mr Ramamurti who brought well cooked meals and bottles of soda water to my room – and just as important, offered me his sympathy, which at the time I so desperately needed.

I should also mention that at the same time I began a course of powerful antibiotics.

 

Yes, he was a good man Mr. Ramamurti. The other tourists in the hotel called him ‘Mr. R’ and I got into the habit too.

I have fond memories of Mr. R.

He was terrible liar.

Of all the lies he told me surely none was greater than what he told me about Vailankanni.

And look, to be fair, I needed the lie……

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