THE RAILWAYS OF INDIA
The bunks are too narrow for beds and too wide for seats. The act of rolling over in the night is attended with some danger and more anxiety, especially by the occupants of the upper berths. In the daytime you can sit on the edge like an embarrassed boy, with nothing to support your spine, or you can curl up like a Buddha on his lotus flower, with your legs under you; but that is not dignified, nor is it a comfortable posture for a fat man. Slender girls can do it all right; but it is impracticable for ladies who have passed the thirty-third degree, or have acquired embonpoint with their other graces. Or you can shove back against the windows and let your feet stick out straight toward the infinite. It isn't the fault of a railway corporation or the master mechanic of a car factory if they don't reach the floor. It is a defect for which nature is responsible. President Lincoln once said every man's legs ought to be long enough to reach the ground.
The cars are divided into two, three, or four compartments for first-class passengers, with a narrow little pen for their servants at the end which is absolutely necessary, because nobody in India travels without an attendant to wait upon him. His comfort as well as his social position requires it, and few have the moral courage to disregard the rule. To make it a little clearer I will give you a diagram sketched by your special artist on the spot.
This is an excellent representation of a first-class railway carriage in India without meretricious embellishments.
The second-class compartments, for which two-thirds of the first-class rates are charged, have six narrow bunks instead of four, the two extras being in the middle supported by iron rods fastened to the floor and the ceiling. The woodwork of all cars, first, second, and third class, is plain matched lumber, like our flooring, painted or stained and varnished. The floor is bare, without carpet or matting, and around on the wall, wherever there is room for them, enormous hooks are screwed on. Over the doors are racks of netting. The bunks are plain wooden benches, covered with leather cushions stuffed with straw and packed as hard as tombstones by the weight of previous passengers. The ceiling is of boards pierced with a hole for a glass globe, which prevents the oil dripping upon your bald spot from a feeble and dejected lamp. It is too dim to read by and scarcely bright enough to enable you to distinguish the expression upon the lineaments of your fellow passengers. A scoop net of green cloth on a wire springs back over the light to cover it when you want to sleep: Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. The toilet room is Spartan in its simplicity, and the amount of water in the tanks depends upon the conscientiousness of a naked heathen of the lowest caste, who walks over the roofs of the cars and is supposed to fill them from a pig skin suspended on his back. You furnish your own towel and the most untidy stranger in the compartment usually wants to borrow it, having forgotten to bring one himself. You acquire merit in heaven, as the Buddhists say, by loaning it to him, but it is a better plan to carry two towels, in order to be prepared for such an emergency.
As we were about starting upon a tour that required several thousand miles of railway travel and several weeks of time, the brilliant idea of avoiding an risks and anxiety by securing a private car was suggested, and negotiations were opened to that purpose, but were not concluded because of numerous considerations and contingencies which arose at every interview with the railway officials. They are not accustomed to such innovations and could not decide upon their own terms or ascertain, during the period before departure, what the connecting lines would charge us. There are private cars fitted up luxuriously for railway managers and high officials of the government, but they couldn't spare one of them for so long a time as we would need it. Finally somebody suggested a car that was fitted out for the Duke and Duchess of Connaught when they came over to the Durbar at Delhi. It had two compartments, with a bathroom, a kitchen and servants' quarters, but only three bunks. They kindly offered to let us use it provided we purchased six first-class tickets, and were too obtuse to comprehend why we objected to paying six fares for a car that could not possibly admit more than three people. But that was only the first of several issues. At the next interview they decided to charge us demurrage at the rate of 16 cents an hour for all the time the car was not in motion, and, finally, at the third interview, the traffic manager said it would be necessary for us to buy six first-class tickets in order to get the empty car back to Bombay, its starting point, at the end of our journey. This brought the charges up to a total as large as would be necessary to transport a circus or an opera company, and we decided to take our chances in the regular way.
We bought some sheets and pillow cases, pillows and old-fashioned comfortables and blankets, and bespoke a compartment on the train leaving Bombay that night. Two hours before the time for starting we sent Thagorayas, our "bearer", down to make up the beds, which, being accustomed to that sort of business, he did in an artistic manner, and by allowing him to take command of the expedition we succeeded in making the journey comfortably and with full satisfaction. The ladies of our party were assigned to one compartment and the gentlemen to another, where the latter had the company of an engineer engaged upon the Bombay harbor improvements, and a very intelligent and polite Englishman who acts as "adviser" to a native prince in the administration of an interior province.