My first rail journey in India proved to be an initiation exercise. I travelled 6.5 hours from Mumbai to Aurangabad, within the state of Maharashtra.
Roasting bodies are crammed onto tiny seats as gusts of noxious air come through the windows. The fans? Oh they’re on, but you can’t feel more than a whisper.
Finding your carriage and seat is a test of wits as the train cars have riddles for names (ex. DX1). I braved one of the non-AC carriages.
Each train car is cut in half by a skinny aisle with rows of three seats on each side. Mine was an aisle seat that faced a couple with their two-year-old daughter.
The train seats are designed for petite passengers or children so it doesn’t take into account women bound in suffocating saris with a little extra weight on their hips. The crowded setting was made worse by the gusts of what smells like a mixture of flatulence, pollution and concentrated urine wafting in through the open windows. I learned to cover my face with a scarf folded over a few times when parked at each station because it was about 10 times worse than while moving.
While charging along the tracks, the train lets out a barrage of shrieking. This whistle sounds nothing like “choo-choo” or “toot”. Instead, it’s a wall of noise that slams into your ear like Morse Code but instead of short, sharp messages, it’s a six-hour conversation.
Meanwhile, the train’s human cargo is slow baking in each non-airconditioned metal can.
The discomfort of the ride made me question whether the trip to see the Ajanta Caves was worth it. I can say now that I’m glad I went.