Our hotel was a 45-minute drive from the WV office and Ankit’s community. We returned around 7:00 p.m., our bodies begging for a shower to wash away the sweat and dust.
We had the evening to write a feedback report for WV, pack, and grab a bite to eat. At midnight, the WV staff returned to pick us up and drive us to the train station. Now THAT experience was another story…
We had to make two trips from the hotel to the train station because the vehicle couldn’t hold everyone and their gear. Gene and I were dropped off first. There we stood in the dark, eyed by curious and perhaps suspicious nationals. I was the only woman in sight; my white skin and short, fair hair drew stares like a magnet. A wee bit unnerving, to say the least. Suddenly, like a guardian angel, a WV Indian staff member appeared. “Hi! I’ve been waiting for you inside the terminal!” Whew. Relief swept over me as he took my suitcases and directed us to a safer place to wait.
The others showed up about 20 minutes later, making us a group of seven. We transferred everything to a waiting area immediately beside the tracks where we stood for the next hour. Now I became the one who stared.
Two police officers with a prisoner between them walked past us and climbed aboard a darkened train car. A rope joining the three at the wrists kept the prisoner from escaping. A man with only one leg hobbled by, using one crutch to steady himself. A family with four small children slept on the bare concrete about five feet from the tracks. An elderly man sat a few feet away, watching the goings-on in silence as his wife slept on the ground beside him. A stray dog scrounged through garbage and then curled up to sleep. A train employee holding an old-fashioned lantern with a light that glowed like a 30-watt bulb stood at the edge of the platform as one engine disconnected from a row of cars and pulled away.
Finally our train arrived. The WV staff directed us to the sleeping car for which we had reservations, but within a few moments we realized we had a problem. Apparently there was a booking mistake and our reservations had been made for the previous night! The train employee in charge of that car simply shook his head and told us that if we could get our tickets changed right away, we could ride. Unfortunately, the train began to move away from the station before we could get to the ticket booth and back. By now it was nearly 2:00 a.m. With only one clean and safe hotel within an hour’s drive or more, I silently prayed that our rooms were still available as we loaded our suitcases back into the Jeep.
The hotel’s security gates were locked when we showed up. I whispered another arrow prayer. Our driver honked and honked the horn while our guardian angel searched for and found an opening in the fence. He roused the night security guard and reception clerk, and they greeted us with unspoken questions written over their faces. Thankfully our rooms hadn’t been claimed by anyone else. It was 3:00 a.m. before everyone had returned to the hotel. Our best laid plans had fallen apart, but we slept with the confidence that, for whatever reason God had allowed this, we were in His care.