As an Irish person, the feast of Christmas is so far ingrained in our psyches that it is almost impossible to imagine what it would be like if it didn’t exist. So what happens when a Christmas loving Irish girl travels to the Hindu City of Varanasi, India for a very alternative festive season? Well grab a mince pie and let me tell you a story about my most unconventional Christmas ever.
|A very Indian Christmas|
It was an unorthodox Christmas Eve. I woke up on the top of my triple bunk of an Indian sleeper train. I could tell by the commotion that something wasn’t quite right and I quickly learnt that there had been a delay of not minutes, but hours. While we were sleeping, this big hunk of metal had taken a detour, bringing us 4 hours out of the way
As we were aware of delays we had brought some extra food and so my Christmas Eve began with a breakfast of cold pizza and a giggle, when the South African man in the bunk below me told me of how he had accidentally put my shoes on while trying to get to the trains “toilet” in the dark. I use the word toilet lightly, because it was merely a hole complete with a dirty bar to hold while you squatted. The time was quickly passed when a Norwegian girl began to play a Hindi version of Jingle Bells and we all tried in vain to learn the words.
|Waking up on Christmas Eve Morning|
As the train finally reached our destination at 3pm on Christmas Eve four hours later than our expected 11am arrival, we began to breathe a sigh of relief, but the journey had not ended. Inexplicably, we had to sit on the train just 100 meters from the platform for another hour before it was time to get off. I asked a young Indian sitting beside us how people coped when the trains were so unreliable and his answer was simple – “You always leave one day early”.
We inquired up and down the train, what was the reason for the excessive delays and finally we were told. A cow on the tracks had been hit by another train before us. I was even more amused to find out that this is actually quite a common occurrence. Like leave on a DART track, if you will. It might seem farcical, but in a country where the cow is considered a sacred animal, the concern was not for our delayed travels, but for the poor unwitting train driver, who had managed kill the holy cow. Harming or killing a cow would now attract him the ultimate bad Karma. Suddenly the delays had been forgotten and we were ready to get off the train to spend Christmas in a place where there was no Christmas……….