It’s pouring rain over the tracks. I watch a young, dark-skinned woman take a soaking as she walks delicately between the flooded rails, collecting discarded plastic bottles into a dirty white sack.
It’s just after dawn at the station in Gorakhpur. I’m waiting on a train that will take me 42 hours south to Chennai. But that train is late. I’m waiting at platform five, as per the departures board I noticed as I clambered out of a taxi more than forty minutes ago.
The thought crosses my mind that I should ask someone, confirm whether or not I’m at the right platform. But such asking in India often hurts rather than helps. Nepal, too. The people here will confidently misinform rather than admit uncertainty. Several times in the past I’ve been sent off in wrong directions with bright smiles and strong reassurances.
I look up along the platform and spy three respectable looking chaps gathered around a dodgy food stand. I make my way towards them, knowing an easy question won’t cut it. Asking if this is the right platform for the train to Chennai will most likely draw affirming head wiggles, regardless of the actual answer.
I’m a half dozen steps away from them when an unusual thought pops into my head, and I find myself recalling something I read in Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Body. In a chapter about facilitating female orgasms, Tim writes about one of the most common mistakes men make:
Asking “nonwinning” questions of the woman such as “Does it feel good?” or “Are you enjoying this?” almost guarantees lying. Asking questions is encouraged, but use directional questions instead: “Would you like a lighter or stronger stroke?” “More to your left or right?” “Higher or lower?”
This in mind, I step up to the trio and deliver a winning question: “Excuse me, men. Do you know if the train to Chennai arrives at platform five or six?”