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William Henry Fuller
We are now at our holding station in Karachi awaiting posting to our refresher course
at Kolar, India. It hasn't taken long for us to realize there is more to adjust to than the
weather, when you fly from the dead of winter in Newfoundland and seven foot snow
drifts, to deserts and 110 degree temperatures in a time space of two days. There is a
cultural shock that is overwhelming. The huge crowds, the smells and no one is
speaking your language. All this has an impact on you as you realize you are half a
world away from home !
We were two or three days at the holding sight before we got our orders to move on to
Madras which is on the other side of the country. It was a three day train ride that none
of us will ever forget. The coaches were nothing more than wooden benches with
straight backs and no cushions. Of course the windows were just openings in the walls
of the cars. That was probably the best part, because the smells in the car were
terrible. This was something we were going to have to get used to before we got to go
Speaking of culture shock,....we were in for a dandy one on this train ride. It started
when the train pulled into the first station. The teeming crowds and the noises were
incredible ! We were all hanging out the windows wondering what the fuss was all
about. Little kids, men and women, with hands outstretched, yelling "Bachshis", and
directing all their attention to us in the train. They were begging for money ! Slowly it
began to penetrate that all they were doing was showing us their disabilities to gain our
sympathy, and it worked. I certainly emptied my pockets of the few annas and rupees I
had. Don and Ken did the same. It looked as though the rest of the crews were
affected the same way too.
We never stopped again for two or more hours and during that time I could not get
that scene out of my mind. In fact, I began to vividly recall, in my mind's eye what I had
witnessed. It was really quite horrifying. These people were badly disfigured, some
with elephantitis, others with twisted limbs. It was a very disturbing sight. The next
stop was the same thing over again, and so on, down the line. It became so
depressing we began slouching down in our seats as we approached each station for
the next two and a half days ! I was to find out a few days later, many of those children
we saw on the platforms had likely been deliberately disfigured so they would make
more effective beggars !
It was a startling way to be introduced to the class system in India. We finally reached
Madras, a very weary bunch, and reported to our new holding station to await posting
to #6 R.F.U. Kolar Gold Fields.
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