You never forget your first?

An Indian train toilet © Kyle Lease

It soon became apparent that we were on a simple train, certainly far removed from what the ticket and ticketmaster suggested from his chair behind the rosewood-framed window. A first-class four-hour journey time to Rajasthan was his claim.

It was clammy. We were gradually becoming hungry and increasingly tired as the scenery faded and day turned to dusk. As each half an hour passed, I would clamber from my not-so luxurious seat to stretch my legs, sometimes heading for the open carriage doors to feel the warm air rushing by my face.

It wasn’t until the sixth hour of our four-hour journey, that my wife finally stood up and decided to head for the hole in the floor. Now the toilet of any Indian train is certainly no highlight, but you’ll always recall your first time. At least, so I thought.

As she left, I studied the guidebook, fully anticipating the arrival of our destination Jaipur, the Blue City, to come into frame from my window-seat. The chances of this were reducing by the minute, however, as the Indian sun, sank deep into the cooling horizon. My only way of dechipering our location, was pinpointing small landmarks on a token map inside the guidebook, lacking the most significant of details and occasionaly placing my head and hand against the window, to block the carriage lights from reflecting vital detail on the outside.

It had been a long time since my wife left for the toilet, but I was occupying myself with snacks and reading. The odd passenger would stroll past my seat, while others would just simply rise from their seat to stretch their legs.

At times the train would fall down to a very slow pace, occasionally halting at a road-crossing or a red signal light. I couldn’t really tell where we were, as it was gradually becoming pitch-black and the isolated towns we traveled through, had barely any electricty through their small streets. I had much to pre-occupy my mind, as the sixth hour frustratingly became the seventh hour of our train journey…

I looked behind and spotted the silhouette of my wife finally returning to her seat. She held her hand to her face and appeared to be stumbling. It was unclear what was going on, but it was clear she had had an accident. Blood slowly oozed from two deep cuts on her eyebrow and eyelid.

Thoughts raced through my mind and my wife, I soon discovered, appeared to be semi-conscious. She managed to explain that she thought she may have fainted, and as she spoke, I recollected the interior environment of the cubicle. Stainless steel sinks, buttons and heavy towel rails. She explained that she had felt faint and may have keeled over from squatting down in the toilet. I thought her head may have fell forward hitting the corner of a sharp object.

I left her very briefly to inspect the toilet and with my detective skills managed to spot a small spot of blood on the corner of the sink. Somehow I was relieved, as all my fears of her being attacked dissapated.

She slipped in and out of a semi-conscius state, rocking side-to-side as the train jolted across rickety sleepers. I tried to comfort her, trying not to panic and wondering whether or not we needed a hospital. After seven hours, surely our train would reach Jaipur soon…

My wife kept asking me what had happened, and every time I explained, tears started rolling down her face. It was clear she couldn’t remember a thing and that her short-term memory had taken a blow. I decided to cut my losses and not explain to her what had happened. After the tweleth time of asking, I explained to her that we were close to reaching our destination and set about providing her with a hug, placing her head in the nape of my neck.

The accident started to draw the attention of the other passengers. A very old man, who had been sitting opposite started to rustle about in the contents of his bag. He then handed me a small tube of cream. I had no idea what is was, nor could read the Sanskrit on the packaging. So, putting my faith in human kindness, with a quick sniff, I gently rubbed the ointment into her wounds and thanked the gentleman. He returned the healing gel to his bag, smiled and continued to munch on his platter of indian delicacies. We arrived one hour later…

Written by - Edited by Charlotte Amelines - Photo by Kyle Lease

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