BIHAR, India — Knowing a bit about what to expect from an eight-hour train ride from Gaya to Varanasi in second-class accommodations provided me a sense of comfort.
Yet no matter how exhausted I was after exploring the Buddhist wonderland that is Bodhgaya, I couldn’t wait to see what came next. And so, through the windows of my eastbound railcar, I watched as the city’s sights, sounds and smells gave way to lonely train stations, then to wide-open fields occasionally populated by rural inhabitants.
Among the vignettes I saw were: Buildings under construction, edifices crumbling to their foundations, clusters of gray utility poles, local travelers disembarking from my train, people traveling via bicycle, or pushing them along bumpy dirt roads, cows alternating between grazing and lollygagging in the waning summer sun.
Soon, the light grew warmer in color and all the shapes outside the swaying train turned to silhouettes, dimming by the rhythm of railcar wheels clacking into dusk. Then, it was night, and familiar words came to mind:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.