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Monday, January 26, 2009

The Indian Train Journeys

India is known to have one of the best railway networks in the world with millions of people using its services day in and day out...and i had not thought much about it until recently...
My personal train journeys have been quite limited...
when i was a kid my family hardly went on family vacations so that pretty much ruled out many journeys by train...the one that i can vividly remember is the trip to Delhi we took as a family when I was around 12...and that too was in AC - 2 tier - quite a luxury back then.
after that my train journeys were quite infrequent...until I joined Mico -now Bosch India...as a management trainee we were eligible to travel by AC 2 tier and all our trips to Mumbai were by train..so for 2 years I traveled to Mumbai- Bangalore- Mumbai by train to study...and once i joined work full time I have only been flying....until of course my latest job.
My current job requires me to travel to atleast 2-3 cities in a month...and due to the cost structures, travel by train are frequent..so in the last 1.5 years I have had quite a few train journeys..down south.
What prompts me to write this blog is my recent trip (personal one) by train to Hampi..since I was on a personal budget travel my friend and I decided to take the Sleeper class to Hospet from Bangalore....and boy oh boy..had i forgotten what a "Crowded" country i live in...
it amazes me that in this country a reservation bogie means little or nothing to most people...With confirmed tickets we had to hold on to our seats and guard them. Being a long weekend the train was bursting at its seams with people...people who had got in with RAC, WL or even just normal tickets....anything to just get to your destination...the bogie looked like a market place with over 15 -20 people in each coupe meant at best for 9 people...(these are the trains that now have an extra side berth - a la garib rath strategy).....and to top it all we had the top two side berths in the middle of the bogie ensuring us a good view of both parts of our bogie..
through the night there were people haggling for seats, grabbing each others personal space..and what not...by early morning..we had people stretched across every available bit of space in the bogie...funnily every time a few people got down at their respective destinations more people got in at that station to continue the fight for space...
this also reminded me of the lyrics from the song toofan mail....about how life is one long train journey which brings in new people at each stop.....
anyways...the return journey was a little less entertaining (also the fact that we were completely tired added to it)..except for this woman and her son who had gotten in at some station prior to hospet and had conveniently occupied our seats..well it definitely didnt seem like they had not gotten tickets because their journey was a hurriedly planned one (sometimes i understand that people have to make some journeys - considering air travel is not cheap and they risk traveling with RAC and WL tickets cos when you got to go sometimes you just have to go) since they were carrying their entire household with them (including plastic chairs, tv etc)...come on -when you move house you definitely dont decide to do it overnight.... do you??
anyways to cut a long story short...my friend and I were in no mood to be sympathetic to this woman and her son . We just waited till the clock struck 9pm and politely asked them to vacate the seats so that we could make our beds and call it a night......
when i woke up in the morning i realised that the duo had made good use of the plastic chairs they were carrying...they were comfortably sprawled out near the toilets with their make shift plastic chair beds.........
thats the Indian rail traveler for you...am sure the general compartments are a lot worse..i cannot even begin to imagine what those journeys would be like...
at the risk of sounding like a bigot im definitely going back to the relatively safer havens of AC travel...

1 comment:

Nadig said...

This post reminds me of our school trip to Calcutta and Darjeeling! A similar experience and probably the crowd would've been two fold as we were travelling in 3tier Second Class!! :-)