Sunday, December 12, 2010

Delayed Train Journey

A few days before Holi in 2009, around Feb'09, I traveled by train (our own Indian Railways) from Pune to Delhi. I had this travel on the Indian Railways after a gap of many years.

Stations on the Way from Pune to Delhi

The train was supposed to start on Friday at 2pm and reach Delhi by 4pm the next day. Instead it started from Pune at 8pm (6 hours delay at start!) and reached Delhi on Sunday at 1am in the morning - total delay of 8 hours.

While on its way to Delhi the train passed through many stations. Here's a list of some of the stations I remember - Bhusawal, Khandwa, Itarasi, Bhopal, Jhansi (Rani Laxmibai), Gwalior, Agra (the Taj Mahal).

Some Observations on Trains, India and Indians

I traveled by train after a gap of 3 years and it was pure fun leaving apart the delay. Here are few observations I have made based on my train travels since my childhood:
  • The journey by train is a good way to see the countryside. It also makes you realize the size of our country. Those of us who live in metros and cities can get a glimpse of the countryside.
  • The differences in eating habits across the country also become evident from what is available at different stations. For example, in Maharashtra, you would get Vada-pav at the railway stations but when you move Northwards (towards Madhya Padesh and beyond), you would get Samosa instead.
  • Hindi, Bollywood, Cricket, Railways, Indian Politics and History are few of those binding threads in the country. Most of the people who have traveled by train across the country on more than few occasions would pick up some understanding of the above five areas. Having passionate and energetic conversations with fellow passengers is a national pastime while traveling by trains and knowing the above five areas helps in making train journey 'conversational'.
  • Though on roads we are not so accommodating but on trains we are quite flexible. Most of the passengers are okay with exchanging their seats especially if it concerns old passengers. If you have the 'Middle Berth', you can expect your fellow passengers to voluntarily help you in unhooking the latch from the 'Upper Berth', raising the seat of the 'Middle Berth' and hooking the latch down on to the 'Middle Berth' to hold it in position.
Some Thoughts on Indian Railways

And here are few thoughts on improving the Indian Railways system:
  • One key area of improvement is related to cleanness and comfort of the bogies, seats, wash basins and toilets. A lot can be done in this respect. 
  • The eatables and other goods sold on the platforms of the railway stations are a perfect example of "Transient Economy". As the sellers and hawkers know that they are dealing with one-time customers, the price, quality and quantity leaves a lot to be desired. Through the actions of railway authorities and IRCTC, the overall price, quality and quantity is still under some control but a lot more is possible.
  • It may be a good idea to allow the branded food chains to start mini-outlets in railway stations. I know some of the stations do have such joints - like I have seen the Comesum restaurant in both Pune and Hazrat Nizamuddin (Delhi) stations.
Nostalgia and Some Good Things
    Time permitting, I would love to travel by train more than by flights. Also, I am looking forward to somehow manage to travel by the Duronto Express (Delhi-Pune). My mother had traveled by it two months back and it seems a travel by Duronto is definitely a "highly recommended" experience on the Indian Railways.

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