Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Bharath Darshan - life inside a train

Having travelled over 5500 km in a period of 11 days on trains in all modes - 2nd AC, 3rd AC, AC Chair Car at one end, to standing on 2nd Sitting class at another, I feel compelled to give some tips to Indian Railways.

First off, nothing matches a train journey. The gentle rocking of the coach, a welcome opportunity to tolerate and indeed befriend co-passengers, and an opportunity to watch the endless fields passing by, an opportunity to eat junk food sold at various stations, and of course, an opportunity to *not* do anything, an escape from a life bound by endless emails and phone calls. The second AC is a little worse than others because it allows passengers to draw curtains around the berth in the name of privacy and thus reduces interactions. Sleeper is the best because of unrestricted access to the people who try to sell the tastiest local food. It also is a microcosm of the Indian society.

I've never been a happy traveller. Perhaps, my mental inertia is so much that I get adjusted to a routine and don't look forward eagerly to changes. Indeed, before 2005, I hadn't travelled much  north, and definitely hadn't travelled north of South India. It was perhaps good to study in a hostel (that's a different post !), because it forced me to travel. Till April 2006, I hadn't been inside an airport. Now, I travel like a pro - I have flown some 30+ times, primary to and from Bombay, Delhi and once from Pune. And I still hate it. 

I liked the service in Rajdhani and Shatabdi, where the cabin attendants serve you without the obviously artificial smiles and fawning over that I usually experience from flight attendants. Though, it was a little bad when the Rajdhani attendants _demanded_ a tip for the services rendered.

However, if there are a couple of things that don't make me travel by trains much much more ... they are:
a) Guaranteed ticket - Having travelled a lot in flights, I expect to get a ticket (even if it means paying multiple times the original price) to travel at short notice. Railway reservation doesn't allow that. Even though there is the superb IRCTC and a tatkal scheme, the last time I wanted to book the ticket from Lucknow to Bangalore, there was waitlisting for normal ticket on day 1 (90 days before) and waitlisting Tatkal just 10 minutes after 8:00 am on day 1 (5 days before). 

To travel from Lucknow to Bangalore in 2nd AC, I'm ready to pay even thrice the original amount, so why can't railways have a few seats reserved and sold using "dyna fares".  An easy way for IR to make money too ...

b) Good food - The food, even in 2nd AC, is often atrocious. I can't eat puris that are hard and elastic. I can't eat the dry and bland food that they serve. 

c) Clean Toilets - Of all things I can think off, the nightmarish part of a train journey is using the toilets. They are usually filthy, and it is hard to use them, when the training is moving to and fro. I hope something is done, though I'm not sure what.

That said, it is an experience in a class of its own ... if you want to know India, travel in a long-distance train.




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1 Comments:

At Friday 5 September 2008 at 5:09:00 PM IST, Blogger Narain said...

You can search about trains, availability, fare and all other features on a new site which is not developed by Indian Railways, but a third party, you may know the name, that is http://www.indiantrains.org/

Visit this site and experience the new ways to find the trains and their availability.

 

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