Post 8, Muzaffarpur to Sirhind

8:00 a.m. The train arrives at Gonda, Uttar Pradesh. There are now approximately 150 people in the compartment. After completing their morning ablutions, Shailendra and his friends buy fried green peas sold by hawkers at the station. They then mix the peas with the mixture of beaten rice and puffed rice they were carrying in their cotton plaids, and eat that for breakfast. They refill their containers with the water that locals sell for INR 5 per bucket. A policeman is wandering about the compartment, ostensibly to maintain law and order. He orders a seventeen-year old who is sitting beneath Shailendra’s berth to stand up and then proceeds to occupy that seat himself. No one says anything. You don’t mess with policemen.

1 p.m. Sitapur. Damodar buys everyone kulfi.

3:30 p.m. The train leaves Bareilley. Now, there are at least 200 people in the compartment.

5:30 p.m. The train has just left Moradabad. Shailendra takes a stroll in the compartment. He stands near the door and stares at the passing countryside, perhaps contemplating his family back in the village or maybe anxious about the work he is going to be doing in Ludhiana.  

9:00 p.m. Saharanpur. There’s a slight drizzle.

11 p.m. The train chugs into Ambala Cantonment, where most passengers disembark. Shailendra is fast asleep.

12:15 a.m. The train arrives at Sirhind, where Shailendra, Damodar and the rest of us alight. Nearly three hundred people are sleeping on the platform, waiting to embark on their own journeys. Another hundred-odd people sleep on the floor outside the ticket counter. They are perhaps waiting to buy tickets as soon as the counter opens the following morning. Shailendra nimbly steps over their sleeping bodies and makes his way to the exit.