Bleary-eyed awakening is to calls, in minimal light, of "Murdeshwar! Murdeshwar!" We are apparently reaching Murdeshwar, but it is before 6 in the morning and I'm puzzled about why the two men alighting here need to alert the whole compartment. But they do, and they are off the train before I can fully comprehend what's happening. Then I bang my head on the middle bearth, just above me.
But over the next half hour, as our train moves through this coastal belt of Karnataka and as darkness turns to misty light, I'm grateful to the two. There's a "Swami and Friends" quality to the light and scenes outside. Mist everywhere, fields in a green so passionately vivid that my heart nearly stops in wonder. Distant hills, dark-bodied but white-winged egrets flying elegantly about, palm trees, mango trees, tiled two-storey houses here and there. Streams are silver-grey and, to my astonishment, invariably clear as a mountain spring. From the train, I can see through the water to the bottom, and when was the last time I could say that about a stream my train passed?
Then we plunge into darkness again. A long tunnel, and occasional whistles ring out in alarm.
As soon as we emerge, there's a small squat square building, lonely in the middle of a field, with this legend in prominent letters on the edge of the roof: "COMPUTERS". Nearby is a gated compound, with "VISALAXI" carved on the gate. The bungalow inside is wreathed in smoke, great huge clouds of it, seemingly static around it. If I didn't catch the fleeting aroma of something being cooked, I'd think the place was on fire.
Perhaps the COMPUTERS building is part of the Moodalakatte Institute of Technology, a sign for which also alerts me to our arrival in the metropolis of Kundapura. My coach in the train rolls to a stop next to whole banks of seats and benches on the platform, laid out neatly as if in an auditorium. Is this entertainment in Kundapura, do people buy tickets and sit here of an evening, watching the trains parade past only feet away? What do they applaud, I wonder? If the train executes an especially elegant or swishy departure?
On another wide clean river, the rising sun silhouettes several bare-bodied men in boats, black sharp-cut shapes against the water, long poles spearing into the pink sky. A pair of drongos on a wire watches them as I do. Then there's a dose of reality. At the edge of the river, on a small platform on the bank, carefully positioned so the instrumental part of his anatomy overhangs the river, squats a bare-bottomed bald man. Goooooood morniiiiiing Karnataka!