Steel Notes Magazine November 2016 - Page 98

Steel Notes Magazine November 2016 JOURNEY TO INDIA Chapter four: Busted in Allahabad and on to Varanasi Rex Maurice Oppenheimer The Taj Mahal was no doubt beautiful, and when I closed my eyes I could remember it's exquisite silhouette against the sky. While the throngs of tourists had marveled at the ornate details, it was that silhouette that had most impressed me. The building seemed a perfect fit for this place on earth, like a puzzle piece popped into a hole cut to its exact dimensions, it completed the picture. Thinking about it made me smile as I exhaled and passed the pipe to the man next to me. I was in Agra waiting for the bus to the station, where I’d get the train to Varanasi, and I had fallen in with a group of men, two of whom were police officers. We were smoking little pellets of opium mixed with rice chaff. I’d only been in India a little more than three months, but I was already getting comfortable. The balmy night air, the road half paved and half dirt, the disorder of the buildings, with their missing and chipped bricks and patchy paintwork, the red stains of betel nut juice spit on the ground, and the happy laughter, which might seem incongruous to many Westerners, considering the impoverished environment, gave me a sense of ease I had never really experienced anywhere else. Passing the pipe to one of the European hippie travelers that had joined the group, I smiled, “Got to go get my train for Varanasi” The Italian, with smooth olive skin, a full curly beard and beaming eyes, took the pipe. “Be careful Allahabad, brother, police coming on train.” I took note, since I always smoked hash mixed with tobacco on my journeys by train in India. Grabbing my pack and shoulder bag, I squeezed onto the bus, which was so crowded, that people were literally hanging on to the outside edges, and headed to the station. Many of the train stations in India are like little villages. There are people sleeping on the ground, others huddled together just outside cooking over a small fire of burning cow-dung patties, beggars with cups and hands outstretched and vendors selling spicy snacks and tea to the teeming crowds. 98 Steel Notes Magazine