Nine thirty on a Saturday morning and it's already hot. Touching 100 degrees. For reasons I'll come back to ( but which involve ' the font ', enthusiasm, and a new found passion for archaeology ) we are changing trains in the middle of nowhere. A place so remote even the yoghurt stall is unattended. '' It's an adventure " says ' the font '. Angus , looking out across a featureless desert towards a family of vultures perching on a dead acacia tree , is less sure.
Time passes. Our connecting train is nowhere to be seen. A bored group of children wander along the platform and stand staring at us. Their mothers join them. To better enjoy the entertainment they finally settle cross legged on the floor. From time to time one of them points at Angus and laughs. A man carrying a large metal pot on his head stops and tells us his brothers wife has a cousin in Pittsburgh. '' Do we know him ? ".
Suddenly there is a bout of activity. An electric platform polisher appears. Then three police constables, two men in garish ties and no less than a dozen gentlemen carrying a red carpet come rushing out of the booking hall. Amid much arguing the carpet is first laid this way, then that. Finally it is taped to the stairs . A flag pole is retrieved from the station managers office and placed proudly, if slightly drunkenly, at the point where the platform carpet meets the stair carpet. Marigolds are scattered on the ground . The Maharajah is coming to town.
Minutes later what seems to be the biggest train in the world arrives. Thirty freshly painted, pristinely monogrammed, red and black carriages. It rushes through the station, brakes, then amid much banging and crashing slowly reverses back. The carpet is in the wrong place. Managers, policemen, and factotums run along the platform dragging the carpet behind them . After another ten minutes of shunting and whistle blowing , carpet and the Maharajahs carriage door are in some sort of alignment. A band starts to play. A camel and two horses appear in the ticket hall.
It's at this moment the station dog arrives. Ignoring the crowds, the camel, the honour guard, the drummers, the three policemen and the railway officials he wanders down the carpeted stairs and onto the platform. He casts a wizened '' what's all this about ? " gaze along the line of carriages. Satisfied that there's nothing to eat he carefully lifts a hind leg and christens the flag pole. The station masters assistant , horrified at this breach of etiquette, leaves the welcoming committee and rushes down the platform clapping his hands while wildly shouting '' Shoo ! Shoo ! ". The dog looks to see what all the fuss is about and then slowly and disdainfully disappears onto the track.
This is why Angus likes dogs. Pomp and ceremony may impress humans but it takes a lot more to impress an Indian station dog.
( Eagle eyed readers will note that the photos are dated April 11th 2012. This is because Angus has 'repaired' the problem with the date stamp on the i-phone. It seems all photos in future will be stamped with this date ).