A Journey Through The Indian Railways…
A Journey Through The Indian Railways…
Indian Railways, the so-called lifeline of India. It’s the fourth largest railway network in the world, but perhaps the worst when it comes to punctuality and getting a confirmed reservation. Last year my dad got transferred to Gwalior, thus bringing my Mumbai-extravaganza to an end. Every time I’ve to visit my parents, I need to make this 25 hours long and gruesome journey from Pune to Gwalior.
My journey begins with a 2 hour bumpy travel from Manchar to Pune by ST bus (yeah, lal dabba), via the pathetic Pune-Nashik (so-called) highway. I reach Pune Junction railway station to catch Jhelum Express, which departs around 5.20 in the evening. As usual, I carry with me 4 heavy V.I.P. bags (well I get to visit my parents only once in a semester, so the number of clothes piled up for washing is huge).
Somehow, limping and clutching on to my luggage, I make my way to platform number 1, where Jhelum Express is waiting to depart. As there is still some time for the train to depart, I try to enjoy the ambience around the platform which includes tea-sellers welcome cry of “chai, chai garam chai” coming down the aisle, over-crowded trains, hustle bustle of the crowd… Suddenly there is a loud announcement, “kripaya dhyan de, train number 11077, Jhelum Express kuch hi samay main platform number 1 se ravana hogi. Hum aapki sukhad yatra ki kamna karte hai.”
I clutch my bags and board the train. The train departs and I get excited with the fact that I’ll finally see my parents after a long time. The T.C. (ticket collector) comes to me and asks, “ticket please.” I show him my ticket and get myself ready for a long journey ahead.
I try to look around my co-passengers, hoping to find someone “interesting” so that my journey goes without yawning and dozing. Unfortunately all my co-passengers are middle aged uncles and aunties, who ask me, “beta, pune main kya karte ho?” to which I reply,” main engineering kar raha hoon, from Govt. College of Engineering & Research, Pune” (yeah, Avasari goes missing somehow!). And that impresses them! Well they obviously don’t have a clue of what our college really is!
The train crosses Daund, as I look outside the window. The train crosses the beautiful fields, hills, valleys… the beautiful birds of variegated colours, the red glow of the beautiful setting sun and the hues of the clouds in the sky. Ah, it seems as if some painter just painted the world with his brushes.
Soon it turns darker and nothing outside is visible. Ahmednagar arrives around 8 in night and we are served with (so-called) dinner. The food has zero nutritious value and it is something the flies (read makkhiya) would love to gorge upon. After dinner, I Plug in the headphones to my mobile and try to hit the bed (I mean seat). Somehow I never get proper sleep whenever I do an overnight train journey. It’s 2 in the night but I am still awake. In the meanwhile, I see after every 10 minutes there is atleast one passenger waking up to use the toilet. That’s the effect of train ka khana I guess!
Finally I catch some sleep. I wake up and see Bhopal arriving around 9 in the morning. Most of the passengers alight over here. I gather some courage and order myself a coffee. It tasted like Garam Pani, painted brown. Gwalior is still 7 hours away. It’s the month of June and the mercury level goes so high that even sitting in an A.C. 2 tier compartment doesn’t help. The train crosses Habib Ganj, Jhansi, Khujraho and the rest of my journey goes smoothly (read ‘boring’). I reach Gwalior around 3.30 in the noon. Thankfully my dad sends someone to pick me; otherwise I would have to take a rickshaw to reach my parents, which is another journey in itself, given the “terrific” condition of the roads there. My 25 hours misery comes to an end. As I leave the platform I hear a loud horn of the engine with the speaker blaring out:
“kripaya dhyan de, train number 11077, Jhelum Express kuch hi samay main platform number 1 se ravana hogi. Hum aapki sukhad yatra ki kamna karte hai!”