On an epic rail journey, our writer joins 800 Hindu devotees and, thanks to their kindness and friendship, enjoys life on board as much as visits to spectacular temples

‘Don’t worry, she’s lighter than a feather,” said the man as he tried to pass his aged mother to me – in the train – up from the tracks. She eyed me suspiciously, decided I wasn’t a safe pair of hands and vaulted up the last couple of steps, pushed past me and hobbled down the carriage.

The son shrugged and gestured down the line where swarms of people, bored of waiting for the train to pull into a platform, were clambering across the tracks to reach it. A resourceful, determined character your average Indian pilgrim. And I was one of them, sort of.

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