Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Special Rajdhani Express. Next stop: Mumbai.

Trains are the preferred mode of transportation in India, at least for long distances. They might not be the most comfortable or the cleanest but they are usually pretty inexpensive and relatively fast. The Rajdhani is not faster than flying to Mumbai but being the second fastest train in India, it was naturally only a 21 hour train ride! Hey, I'm just glad I didn't have a 33 hour train ride to Bangalore like some of my friends.

This train ride in particular was a bit different from all the other train rides I've been through so far and I thought I might mention it here. My roommate and I said our bitter goodbyes to our host parents and headed for the New Delhi Railway Station, arriving with time to spare in order to catch our midnight train. I fell asleep almost instantly. The next morning I woke up looking a hot mess, with cilantro chutney on my kurta of course. My roommate was already awake but we didn't feel very energetic at the time so we both busted out our books only to be interrupted by the guy sitting across from us. After being interviewed about our lives and what we were doing in India, we had made a new friend despite having been told by our academic directors not to talk to sketchy strangers. This guy seemed a little crazy so we figured he was harmless. He taught us how to play Indian card games, we taught him how to play some American ones, we argued about corruption and the time went by really fast. He doled out some useful info on Mumbai; where to go, what to eat, which public transportation to avoid. He gave us business cards for all the places we absolutely needed to go see and then threw his in just in case we needed anything while we were in Mumbai. 

His card caught my attention, it said something about immigration services. Naturally, I was really curious about what he did and after interrogating him about it for a bit, it turned out it was just a fancy title for recruiter. American and Canadian universities pay him to recruit wealthy Indian students; the more students he brings in to one specific institution, the higher a percentage of the students' tuition that he is entitled to. All I could do was laugh nervously as he confirmed my undying belief that college is a business. I've always been aware of this but it had been merely lurking in my subconscious and all of a sudden it was in my face, as most depressing things in India seem to be. It does seem like this is increasingly the case in the U.S. On that note, I read an interesting article in the NY Times. It's worth a read.  Both very fun things to think about, I realize. Sorry I'm not sorry.

I also realize I still haven't told you why I'm in Mumbai and what I'm actually doing here but since I'm on a bit of a time crunch, we'll just leave that for the next post.