Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Remember the old movie "Papillon" with Steve McQueen, where he is emprisoned and out of hunger in jail, he goes after a roach and eats it?! Now everyone saw this and I am sure we all said, I know I did! NEVER would I eat a roach!!! Well on our journey to Mumbai two days ago I learned a very valuable lesson, NEVER say NEVER!!, I did not eat a roach :-), but I did just as bad :-(. So here is the situation.
As we were boarding the train, there was a couple already in the train all comfortably settled in top and bottom berths in my cabin. I very politely told them that the bottom berth was reserved to me. Both in my tickets and on the travellers list posted outside the wagon my name was clearly printed "Isabelle Camille, Lower Berth 19." He proceeded to inform me in a not so very polite way that I had a problem because he also was assigned seat #19. He would not show his ticket, though, just said he would only show it to the ticket collector. So the train starts pulling out of the station and I am still standing in the aisle, because they have bags and stuffs feeling up the berth. As all the other seats were occupied, I just stood there for a while. After a moment, I said to them "I guess I am going to have stand the whole way to Mumbai. It's OK, I guess, this is India, the incredible!" The young woman took great offense to my comment and want me to take it back! As I am still standing, I ask her under what principle would I feel the need to take it back or even apologize?! Her fiance/husband tries to calm her down, but not an easy task. In the meanwhile I am still standing!! Not the smallest gesture to move their packages so I could at least sit while we're waiting for the ticket collector to settle the situation! Kahlil who was in another compartment comes by, tries to talk to them, no cigar! Now she is even more enraged saying I could have just gone and sat with "my company" (her expression, thought it was cute!) instead of making this comment about India!! Imagine, 15 hours sharing a berth with Kahlil, sitting instead of my nice (I didn't know then what I know now! "Papillon" is coming!) berth by myself, (again, I didn't know then what I know now!!) where I could sleep! Finally the man in the coat arrives! He checks the tickets and as expected, the berth was mine... I won't gloat, and I have a story to get to, so that was settled! Being that it was only about 4PM at that time, I very graciously accepted for them to stay together on the berth with me while I read and when we got ready to sleep one of them would have to move. I am very quietly reading my book while they are watching a movie and talking next to me. Suddenly I feel something pass over my feet. I move them and forget about it. About an hour later, I feel it again. I had a blanket over my legs, so I move the blanket, don't see anything and I continue with my reading... Now it is starting to get dark so I am starting to think about sleeping. So I tell them once their movie is over, we'll go to sleep. They agreed and we continued, me with my book, them with their movie. And folks you will not believe it but a few minutes later a mouse came crawling on my arm stood on its hind leg as if to take a good look at me! I tried to scream, but the breath had been knocked out of my lungs. Finally, I realized she was looking at the thing also and made a very casual comment "A rat, yes, I've even seen one in First Class!" Then I found my lungs, screamed, jumped still in a very composed manner as I realized the audience was not going to be sympathetic! From that moment on, it is as if we had become buddy-buddy, the creature and I!! It just went on in its hunt for food and came back from time to time to check if I was still there! The other two just kept at their movie watching and talking as if nothing.
Well, folks, when it came time to sleep, "Manges-Moi" was just not keeping me awake anymore to chase the creature away, I told them it was time to sleep, she went on to the bunk given to him, which was a lower berth, he climbed to the top berth in our cabin. I stuffed the blanket all around me to fill the holes where my little friend was crawling in, in the hope that it would suffice to deter his visit, and I slept!! I still can't believe it! Kahlil refuses to believe me as I am sure some of you who know my rodent-phobia (is there a term for this?!). Once I realized there was nothing to do about it, they thought it was just a small nuisance, so I wasn't going to get any help from anyone, I just made do! My body was begging for sleep so I did! Incredible! Unbelievable!
By the way, there is a joke in India, that rats here are smarter than rats anywhere else in the world because they travel so much in the trains!! When I was told the joke during our first trip to Khajuraho, I had thought it was funny. Not anymore!
Morale of the story: Il ne faut jamais dire "Fontaine, je ne boirai pas de ton eau!"

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