GORAKHPUR, India — The center of the Indian independence movement in the first half of the 20th century, Gorakhpur is also home to Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh saints, as well as several historic religious sites.
For me, its immediate significance was in being the northernmost railroad station on the way to Nepal.
Arriving on the overnight train from Varanasi around 9 a.m., I hurried out of the station for two reasons — one, to see the city as quickly as possible, which is usually a primary motivation for me while traveling; and two, to find a restroom, which is very often a high-priority motivation at all other times in my day-to-day existence.
Imagine my surprise — and delight — to find right outside the railway station an open-air “room” lined with urinals. While I’m not sure all the plumbing was connected to supply and sewer lines, it was a welcome find, and the half-restroom helped to dissipate odors while offering a 360-degree view of my surroundings.
From there, I spotted a series of restaurants and mentally selected one for breakfast and for a warm drink to chase off the effects of a chilly night in a sleeper car.
Once again, I ordered a coffee, black, that was the color of weak honey and bore little resemblance to any caffeinated drink. I ordered another, uncertain even then whether coffee even existed. Nothing in the sidewalk eatery smelled of java beans. I should’ve ordered tea. Had I been in Colombia, coffee would’ve made sense.
Here, I boarded a bus to the border of Nepal, just three or so hours away.