Above the scummy water, on a sandy mound, a man sleeps curled up in his blanket inside a makeshift shelter. Four wood posts and a roof of straw. There is almost a romantic air about his home, although in reality there is nothing about it that is remotely so. Marigolds and other flowers bloom on his little plot. He has no facilities. Once, a man in his position could wash at a railway station tap. Not any more.
The Minister of Railways has ushered in new rules in an effort to improve hygeine
on India Rail property. Effective immediately: Fines of 500 rupees (about $10) for anyone caught washing, urinating, spitting, cooking at a railway station. What - all at once?
Another body of water, outside the next station, is clogged with paper, Styrofoam cups, food containers and plastic bags. A bird sits on a hog's back pecking insects from its hair. A herd of water buffalo, those sacred beasts of India (who would happily eat those papers, cups, food containers and plastic bags, to their detriment) gather outside the front door of a solidly-built structure, through which I spot a family start its day.
An old woman, perhaps the grandmother, brushes the hair of a young girl dressed in school uniform... but the train has whizzed by already and I am not privy to any more. A disembodied female voice comes over the PA system. She says we are stopping at Mathura Station where tourists should get out to visit important temples.
I am glad I've already been to Mathura and Agra, the next station and seen the sights: Krishna's birthplace, the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort. I bought a camel there, a toy. The salesman told me how well-made it was. "No plastic," he said. Later, I found a small hole in the fur and underneath, pink, manmade, plastic.
Welcome to India!