Bihar, India – Part 1

I was on the Nepal side of the border when I woke early in the morning. It was maybe an hour walk to get to the border, so I woke up the hotel staff, checked out, and they unlocked the door for me. I knew it was going to be another long day for me.

I got my passport stamped then walked across the border and looked around to see what to do next. I didn’t see any immigration office because it was closed. I had to wait around for someone to show up. After the officer stamped my passport, he asked for a gift or bribe. I didn’t give him anything, but it was a hint of what was to come in the poorest state of India.

My goal for today was to get to the city of Patna. I walked to try to find a bus. One man tried to get me to buy a bus ticket, but I said no. People said there was a 6:30AM bus and it was almost that time. Some men brought me to a an agency and said I could buy a ticket here and get picked up. They said it was a nice bus, direct, not too many hours, air conditioning, sleeper bus, which were all lies, of course. I really wanted to walk to the bus station, but the bus showed up and I had no choice but to buy the ticket and get on the bus. He didn’t have the change, so I demanded it before I sat down in the seat.

I had a window seat until a man with with a couple kids kicked me out and I had sit on the edge of the seat in the aisle for a couple hours. I’m liking kids less and less during this trip. The narrow roads were pretty rough, but as the bus got closer and closer to the big city they got bigger. I searched for a long time to see if travel by train was possible, but there was no direct train so I had to take the bus. But of course, everyone got kicked out of the bus and was forced to go into another one half way.

Eight hours later, the bus crossed the Ganges river which is very wide at this point and I made it to the long distance bus station of Patna. I decided to walk the rest of the way into the city but a autorickshaw stopped with one woman passenger already. It seemed they wanted to share. My defenses are so high now, I refused to get in without an agreed price in writing. However, this state has the highest illiteracy rate in the country, I’m not sure that would work. After getting a few people involved, the price was agreed at 5 rupees, as was written down on the paper. When I got off,  I didn’t have exact change so I had to go to a store and buy something. The other woman paid 5 rupees and then when I paid he said no. I took out the paper and pencil, and he writes a “0” next to my “5.” I’m thinking you can’t do that! 5 is now 50? I just paid 5 Rupees, walked away, and it was a good thing he didn’t give me a lot of trouble.

Next I had to find a room. After a long walk I found the street with all the cheap places to stay. Most said they don’t take foreigners. The others said they were full. After a couple hours, things were not looking good. The only thing I wanted to see was the Patna Museum, and it was going to close soon so I thought now or never. After walking all the way there, all the gates were closed and it looked like the museum has been closed for a while. No signs or explanations. So much for learning about this 2500 year old city.

I had planned to spend one night and then get on the train in the morning. I had already bought my ticket. Now I decided to leave the city and go to another city tonight. I had to fight the crowds at the train station to try to figure out how to get a ticket. There were two other cities I could go to: Raigir and Gaya. The problem was both trains leave at the same time, so I would have liked to get on the train that was less crowded. I decided on Gaya, bought a ticket that no one checks for anyway. On the low class trains, I don’t understand why they don’t check for tickets. Maybe because they are so crowded it is too hard to enforce.

Waiting for the train wasn’t too comfortable since the platforms were filled with smoke from burning garbage next to the station. The the train arrived, people were throwing items through the windows onto the seats. Apparently, this is the only accepted rule in India. If your item lands there, you get to sit there. Then there was all the pushing to get a seat and luckily some people made some room for me. It got so crowded, one man climbed up to the luggage racks next to the ceiling and laid down there. I’ve never seen that before anywhere.

On trains, in stations, on the street, many Indian men like asking me questions. Things like what am I doing in India, am I here all alone, what do I think about India, do I like India. For the last question, in my mind I want to say I wish nuclear holocaust on this land, but I couldn’t say that. So I say there are good things and bad things. At least I cannot speak Hindi or ten times as many people would bother me constantly.

When I arrived at Gaya station I was shocked by the number of people sleeping on the floor. I could barely walk out of the station. I was scared, if there were this many people sleeping inside the station, there is probably  no chance of getting a room to myself outside 9:00 at night. But I tired and I was surprised there were rooms available and for an acceptable price too. I was happy to just have a bed with a blanket.