Saturday, 23 February 2013

North India by Train

I am grateful to the Lord that we found a wonderful church in Delhi known as Bible Bhavan Christian Fellowship. Before we stumbled upon Bible Bhavan, we had visited 2 other churches and still did not feel at home. On the first day of visiting Bible Bhavan, we knew that this was it. It was like a family away from home where the word of God is explained sequentially and clearly. We looked no further for a church as we now felt at home. At last, we had a family in Delhi where we could fellowship, visit and we lost no time in making friends. Our prayers for a church had been answered.

Some time ago, we went on a medical mission trip whose main aim was to minister to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ serving as church planters, ministers and workers in various Bible Bhavan affiliated centres in North Delhi.  Our journey began with a bus ride to the train station at 5a.m. The train journey to Dehradun took almost  6 hours. The train station was crowded even at 5a.m and I shuddered to think what it looks like during holiday season when everyone is travelling to join their families. The journey itself was not too bad. The train was clean with seats that had seen better days but were still in good condition. It was spacious with ample leg room and hot meals were served. The toilets however were nothing to write home about and we were petrified by what we would do if our daughter decided that she needed to use the bathroom. The camp went well and the journey back was better; we knew what to expect and since it took place at night, we slept for half the time. On the third day, we flew to Lucknow and spent an afternoon and the next morning seeing people with various medical issues. The dental team had set out a full mobile dental clinic that was impressive. They were cleaning teeth, doing extractions and even had a mobile 'denture factory' (for lack of a better word). The optical team were diagnosing problems and issuing reading glasses. Thereafter, we took a train ride to Varanasi. We had been warned that theVaranasi train ride would be a difficult one. My wife had immediately taken upon the spiritual dimension on hearing this and could be heard explaining how the "air will be thick, and choking because of all the evil spirits on the way!". Varanasi is where many Hindu adherents go to bathe in the river Ganges. It is also the bed rock of Budhism where it is reputed that Budha gave his first ever sermon. In my mind, I had thought that 'difficult' had a spiritual connotation but little did I know that it was also meant in a very physical way. The first assault to my senses was when the team leader announced that we should carry our water with us from the dining area at Lucknow. I thought to myself, "that is odd. In the previous 2 train rides, water was provided in abundance. Every person had their own water bottle and you could get more if need be." However, I decided to pack a water bottle though half heartedly. On arrival at the train station, I was still oblivious as to what to expect on this train ride. I started to fantasize on the hot dinner and then I would settle down on the wide seats, stretch my legs and nod off for some 5 hrs or so.  On boarding the car we were supposed to travel in, I almost turned back, thinking I was in the wrong train. My sense of sight was assaulted by images of very old seats, some of which did not recline, were rusted in some areas and the cabin curtains looked like they had not been to a laundry in a hundred years. The seating space was also narrow. As if that was not enough, alarm bells go off in my nose as I sense the acrid smell of urea that was poorly camouflaged by an equally strong smell of disinfectant. On entry, at the cabin door, my subconscious mind registered that there was no activity at the door of loading food items but at the same time, I wondered how I would consume a meal with these competing nauseating aromas in the air. As I sat down at my seat with a sinking feeling, I observed that the fold down table for my seat was spoilt. As I was contemplating how to eat my food without a table on a moving train, with a toddler balanced on my knee, my memory rushed back to to what I had heard before. Like a movie, the comments came rushing back.....'the train ride to Varanasi is very difficult'......... 'please carry your water with you for the train ride'........... the sight of no food being loaded  at the door....... and now.......... no table. It hit me like a thunderbolt......." my goodness, there is no food on this train!!"  We had to think fast. We had no idea how much time we had to go out and buy snacks before the train started to move. Luckily, the snack vendors were just out there on the platform and I figured if the train started to move, I could jump on quickly enough. I dashed out and got some snacks then settled down for the ride. By the 3rd hour of our 5 hour train ride, we were all "snacked out". Hungry but unable to force down another snack. Even the kids could not stand the biscuits and crisps. However, our God is merciful and he delivered sweet sleep that ensured that our last 2hrs were spent in blissfull oblivion to the hardships of the train ride to Varanasi.

No comments:

Post a Comment