The train rolls in at around 23:20. It’s just about empty which surprised me. My berth is amongst an Indian family of 5. This is another family who regularly speak English to each other. Later, after chatting with them, they reveal they speak a few different languages.
They are a lovely family and we spend hours chatting. We talk about India, Europe, work and Goa. They take their holidays in Goa every year. They are passionate about Bombay, as they called it. One of the boys tells me an estimated 35,000 people enter Bombay everyday, and few leave. He also mentions that many wealthy Bombay citizens who drive Mercedes cars live in the slums. He says this is for cheap rent and to avoid paying government taxes.
India is a complicated country that often only reveals itself when I talk with its people. I certainly don’t claim to understand it yet. But I don’t think I ever will.
The family bless themselves several times during the evening. When we first pulled away the mother gave everyone a black bindi high on the forehead. I guess this is to ensure safe travel, but I don’t ask.
They are very interested when I talk of Christianity and its waning in many countries in Western Europe. I mention that I’m not really a Christian; in that I don’t pray or attend church, but I do enjoy the holidays. They ask which is my religion, as if it wasn’t an option to not have one.
They are great people and perfect train companions.