Udyan Express

A twenty-eight hour journey. With a family of thirteen in a space of approximately 4 m2.

We moved across land, saw rural villages, we snaked through the Western Ghats, saw paddy fields and men and women herding goats on dusty-​earth​y​-paths. We bought multiple bottles of water from men pacing though the tunnel of coaches as they loudly recited “thanda paani, water, paani, paani, thanda paani, water, paani…” We ate kilos of deep fried Indian snacks. We gazed out of windows and leaned out of open doors for hours, waiting for time to pass. We felt the morning chill turn into midday heat as we moved south into unshaded space. The warm, thick air cooled down as we took afternoon naps on our berths. We watched the sun disappear in a haze that covered what looked like the edge of the earth. We held our breaths in dirty toilets and used an entire bottle of hand sanitiser. We made friends with a politician, a young father, and a man in the textile business from Rajasthan. We used paper soap one of our friends gave us. We gave children food. We got off at idyllic stations to stretch our legs, and got back on the train as it moved away. We slept with fresh breezes of air gushing through bared windows. We waved at railway workers watching us move past them. We chained our bags to seats and berths. We were woken by bright lights in our eyes, from fellow passengers looking for their seats in the middle of the night. We spent the most intimate twenty-eight hours with strangers ever. And even though we complained, or I complained,​ twenty-eight hours goes by quick when there’s so much life surrounding you.