Culture shock – a different world

Seeing the real India is a culture shock to westerners, even though in the UK we have become too used to homeless people lying in the streets. The hardest part is the number of children who are homeless, on the streets and fending for themselves. Some 96,000 children go missing in India every year, which means one child disappears every eight minutes. Waiting for her train to the Himalayas, Jo has an insight into the hustle and bustle of Delhi life, and the seething mass of humanity that is India. 

Extract from Finding Jo: It’s only 6.50 so I’m very early for the Kalka train. Everyone has told me that the trains are always late, but I can’t take the risk of missing the Kalka Shatabdi. The station is packed to the rafters, and people are hanging off every train that comes in and goes out and some are even sitting on the roof. It’s funny but terrifying and I wonder how many fall off to their death.

Men in long robes, some white and some multi-coloured with little hats to match, approach me offering food and drink as if they are giving it away but they’re not. Some are selling pieces of jewellery, trinkets and maps, all of which are ‘the best you can buy’. At least 10 little faces are looking up at me.

‘Where are you coming from?’

‘You want give me food?’

‘You want give me dollars?’

They are so young it’s pitiful to see them dressed in rags begging everywhere. I get my money out, but it’s true. You give to one and then the other, and then a load more arrive. I put it away in the belt round my waist and cover it up with my jacket.

There are plenty of people lying down sleeping with all their worldly possessions surrounding them. I sit down on my main bag, which serves two purposes – a seat and a safety precaution. I feel so tired, but excited. Just 40 minutes after its departure time the Kalka Shatabdi is ready to depart.

A fellow passenger in a smart grey suit holding a briefcase smiles politely at me.

‘Madam, let me carry your bag on.’

‘Thank you, so kind.’

The hordes are clamouring for third class and I can see they’re piling on top of each other. Those that can’t get in are getting hold of anything they can to hang on.

Extract from Finding Jo, Frances Ive available in Kindle and paperback versions from Amazon worldwide.

Photograph courtesy of Alan Parry