No Trains 7

Let’s start off with the thing that has been the most shocking to have happen to me so far in India! The government has limited cell phone providers to only allow 5 text messages per day per phone and a total of 20KB of data to be sent. This ban will stay in effect for 15 days at least and was put in place to “curb the spread of rumors”. Nowhere can I find out what these supposed rumors are. I definitely did not think that a fully-democratic government like India would do something so restrictive to Freedom of Expression. I am also extremely shocked to find out that no one else is evenly vaguely upset or worried at this news…

Speaking of government, I had a great run-in with India’s bureaucracy this past weekend when I tried to book train tickets to Bhopal for the Muslim holiday Eid. After failing to book tickets online or over the telephone in the previous week, 6 hours were spent going around the Delhi Central Train Station to different booths in an attempt to find vacant seats on a 12-hour overnight train. We were told that it would be very easy if we just want to the Tourism office at the train station. It seemed very easy as we sat in a comfortable queu and chatted with a few fellow tourists. When we finally made it to the counter we were turned away because we are being treated like Indian citizens and not tourists based on our Student Visas…back to the enormous line-ups not meant for rich tourists! Avoiding scams was easier said than done as there was constantly friendly people approaching us and offering to take us to tourist booths, ticket stands and even official government offices. In the end we just ignored anyone trying to help and found the one office we knew was legitimate. Being told at one line that we could get on the train with no problems, then being turned away for not having correct paperwork, then getting reassured once more and finally getting told it was impossible to get on any train left Dominic and I very upset, hungry and disappointed. Booking far ahead was the major take-away we received from this adventure.

Delhi Train Station, the train we should have been on!

At least this failed trip allowed me to get my study on and catch up on a number of the courses in which I am behind. It turns out that missing three weeks of school does not put you in the best situation academically. No worries, slowly I’m catching up. Life is becoming more regular with each passing day here and I feel at home in my room and in the hostel. It is very easy to get around the campus and my life is settling into a pattern and rhythm which has been missing for a while. But still, I cannot stand the heat and humidity – it is so brutal!

Dominic and I enjoying some South Indian cuisine

When I came to India I did not expect the calm of the IIT-Delhi campus. It is a real bubble in the south of Delhi; even more so than UBC is. The large campus has its own little village of workers and, shops, facilities and housing for approximately 10,000 people. Coming from the main street through the guarded campus gates, you are hit by a sudden quietness similar to putting in earplugs during first year residence life. I found the India of my previous assumptions in Old Delhi, visited about two weeks ago with my friend Jonathan. It was loud, chaotic, crazy, smelly, crowded, poor and very real: a general mishmash of everything thrown into a few streets! We saw wild monkeys just crawling on electrical wires and about 5x the number of cars/carts/motorbikes/bicycles/rickshaws on the street than should have possibility been able to fit on those narrow lanes. It was interesting to see how lifestyle is possible in the same city where I live in such relative peace, luxury and quietness.

Old Delhi & my Swedish friend Bjorn in the forefront. Monkeys in the background

Right now the thing I miss most about Canada is the candy. It might seem strange, but there is a very obvious lack of candy here in India. Of course there are cookies, Indian pastries, stuffed snacks, pops and juices filled with sugar, but not quite the Fuzzy Peaches, Skittles and Starbursts of the West. After buying a chocolate bar today I realized that I will probably never have unmelted chocolate here in India – a small price to pay.


  1. Things are not always as they seem here in India
  2. To travel in India you must actually be very organized with appropriate tickets booked far ahead of schedule
  3. It is quite difficult to get in touch with professors and even figure out what you’ve missed in classes when email is used seldom and there are no course websites
  4. Everything in India is deep-fried
  5. There is a 2-GB / week quota on internet here at IIT-Delhi…and you are screwed if you exceed it
  6. A Hindu temple could very much resemble a theme park – a different story for a different day


For those of you that want to send fan mail or candy ;), here’s my address:

EA30 Kumaon Hostel,

Indian Institute of Technology Delhi,

Hauz Khas, Delhi. 110016

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7 thoughts on “No Trains

  • OPA

    Hi alex.we really like your blogs.very interesting to say the least. We will try to mail you some candy,probably no chocolate,that would get their inliquid form.
    We are fine.summer is stil with us,although you can feel the end is near.the nights are getting cooler.
    Alex,we wish you all the best and keep safe.
    Opa & oma

    • Alexander Harmsen Post author

      The texting ban has been lifted to 15 sms messages per day now!
      And no we ended up not going to Bhopal in the end. Good thing because the first set of Minors isn’t looking very good at the moment…

  • Beth

    Alex, I just found out about your blog. Your posts about India are so interesting – it sounds like an amazing country! I love all the photos you’ve included.

    If you could receive a package with 5 types of candy, what would they be? 😉

    • Alexander Harmsen Post author

      Thanks Beth,
      I’ve started looking at your blog, great that you’re posting every day!
      Looks like you are having an amazing time in Joburg!

      Candy? Skittles, Fuzzy Peaches, Starburst, Sour Patch kids, jujubes!