I hang my head in shame desperate not to make eye contact. What if she finds out? I’ve grown to quite like Gemma and I think she’s fond of me too. But this could be the end for us. If she learns my sordid little secret she’ll pack up (which is conveniently done already) and leave.
“Have you got any washing?” She asks as she picks up a pair of my pants off the bed. My pants which I’ve been wearing for over a week.
A bead of sweat falls from my brow.
“I’ve been wearing those pants for over a week” I exclaim, panicking. And then it’s out there. The room is silent except for the sound of the pants hitting the bed.
I put my head in my hands and make a small whimper. No, I must face this like a man. I look up to deal with Gemma’s reaction, to console her, to offer a few sympathetic words on how her boyfriend’s a filthy animal and how she deserves better. But what I see surprises me… She’s smiling.
“Tim, that’s ok” she says in a sweet, loving tone “I’ve been doing the same thing”.
I pause. And then I frown. Gemma really can be disgusting sometimes.
We’ve not had a room of our own for days now and it’s not just our pants that have suffered. We decided to cover as much of India as possible by taking sleeper trains and exploring a new city or town every day.
‘It’ll save on accommodation costs’ we thought, and we were right, but doing things this way cost more than money. It cost us comfort, hygiene and, depending on how this pants situation pans out, our relationship.
Our first stop was Jaipur – the pink city. And it is quite pink, but when you’ve only got 12 hours in a city you need to pack as much in as possible, you can’t just stare at a colour (even if it is a particularly fruity one). We decided to hire an auto rickshaw for a day of sightseeing.
In one day we managed to see a fort (Gemma managed to fall down one too, twisting her ankle), a palace built on water and the old town. We even managed to save a couple of hours to look at the pink (imagine a city designed by that chav down the road who drives the playboy clad Subaru). But the real beauty in Jaipur came from the people.
And then we hit one of them with the auto rickshaw…
“Sorry” shouted our driver. And as the elderly man slowly steadied himself against the ‘not much less chavy than that girl down the roads Suberu’ auto rickshaw, he replied with a smile and a wave. In most places this would have ended in a courtroom?!
Our driver explained the crash as inevitable really because he has 10 girlfriends and therefore doesn’t get to sleep much due to phone calls. It’s not the best excuse we’ve heard but we just couldn’t argue with his cheeky grin.
In the evening we went back to our room to freshen up, by which I mean we sat in a train station and decided not to brush our teeth because just being in the public toilet there would make us instantly less healthy. Then we deodorised using insect repellent (it smells bad, but it’s strong and the top of my bag) and inspected Gemma’s freshly swollen ankle – it probably needs resting…
The train pulled into Jodhpur at 2am. And it was at this point that we had our most authentic Indian experience – we fell asleep in a train station.
Jodhpur is bluer than Jaipur is pink. It’s unlikely, but if you are travelling to find the city which is the most of one colour, then Jodhpur is for you. We knew what we wanted from Jodhpur – a fort which has zip wires around it. Luckily, that’s exactly what they have in Flying Fox!
In the evening, before our midnight train, we decided to pamper ourselves and go for a romantic meal in a posh rooftop restaurant. The food was excellent and the wine flowed, but the waiters didn’t seem too comfortable with us being there. Maybe it was the way we smelt, maybe they could sense that Gemma’s the kind of girl who doesn’t change her underwear, or maybe it was because I kept spilling beer and wine on the table, but whatever it was (probably the underwear thing) they didn’t seem too surprised at the end of the meal when we couldn’t pay.
A short trip to an ATM and a night train later and we were in Delhi.
We’d booked a guided tour around old Delhi with a former street child through a charity called Salaam Baalak which, roughly translated means ‘greetings street child’. So we checked Gemma’s ankle (nope, definately not ok to walk on) and headed out to the walk.
We were shown where street children sleep, how they make money from collecting plastic bottles for recycling and how they spend this money on glue to block the pain of police beatings (a practice which is scarily visible in Delhi train stations). Apparently every train coming into Delhi will have at least one runaway child on board. On average there are over 50,000 street children in Delhi struggling to find somewhere to sleep where they wont get beaten up.
Despite this the Salaam Balak tour wasn’t over emotional and actually felt positive because of the work they do – a worthwhile and informative trip.
After the walk we found a park to relax in before our last train of this particular daily stint. We carefully picked a spot near other courting couples and did our best to stay awake. On our way into the park we passed groups of street children laughing and playing on the pavement.
‘We’ve been without a bed for just a few days’ we thought as our eyes slowly closed wounded and exhausted, ‘these children are amazing’.