And miraculously, at just an hour before we were due to set off for the station, we got the email from India Rail to say that the second ticket had been confirmed. Had we ever doubted?
We shared a 2AC compartment with two Indian gentlemen, one, a government official from Trivandrum who was curious to know all about England. ‘What is the difference between an English village and an Indian village? What will you have for breakfast in England? …. And what will you have to eat in the evening?’ He was surprised to discover that we sometimes eat rice but I don’t think we succeeded in conveying the concept of ‘going out for an Indian on a Friday night’ to him
Dinner, served by the boys from Meals on Wheels, the company which had the catering franchise on board, came on a tray in the compartment, airline style, a little paper cup of thin spicy Keralan soup called rassam, rice, curried chicken and dal
We passed through Mangalore in the early hours of the morning, woken briefly as some passengers got off and others boarded, and then slept until the waiter arrived with a jug of hot water, a tea bag and a plastic cup at just after daylight to find ourselves travelling through the Karnataka countryside, past the farmers already at work ploughing with oxen, past the rice paddies, over the wide estuaries where the fishermen were out in their narrow boats, stopping briefly at the quiet station at Udupi and on towards Karwar and Madgaon.
At 10.15am and on time almost to the minute we arrived at Madgaon City Junction where we got off, leaving the Rajdhani Express and its passengers to continue the journey to Delhi, 24 hours away.
An 880rps taxi ride took us to Palolem an hour away and back, briefly, to the Blancmange Pink cocohut that we had left just over a year ago. It’s only a brief stop of two days then it’s on to a Hampi on the Howrah Express.