A Long Journey by train
Ever since I wrote an introductory post on my vacation to Kinnaur, I have been constantly prodded for more details. In between, I got busy with Bloggers’ Premiere League and churned out two posts for my Team – Tiger Trails. Long chats over gtalk, extremely frequent group mails to the point of spamming their inbox, late nights trying to fine-tune the contest entries saw me busy over the last weekend. So I was happily ignoring those "can we have more details" comments to that post, which kept landing in my Gmail inbox.
Now, I cannot turn a blind eye any more, can I?
As I said in my earlier post, it was a family vacation for me, after many years. Right in the beginning, I told my father that I intend to travel by train, since it has been a long time since I had undertaken a long train journey. I always love to spend nights in trains, while being rocked to sleep by the chugging vehicle. I also love watching people – I start by observing my co-passengers in the coup and then proceed to notice everyone in the compartment. Ok, its usually to spot any "eye-candy", but in this journey, I realised that the eye candies these days are either younger to me or if older, then happily married! Sigh!
This post is not about lack of eye-candies in trains, but the myriad of characters one encounters. In an aeroplane, everyone sits tight, in crammed seats, sleeping or reading and hence, giving away nothing about themselves. But in a train journey, they will carry on with their lives pretty much in the same way as they would do at their homes and gives rare insights into their personalities.
Ok, I digress. Let me begin from the beginning. Even though I procured leave from my office easily, I realised it was a herculean task to wrap up all my assignments in time before I embarked on my vacation. To make matters worse, one of my bosses took a long leave, starting 5 days before mine, leaving truckloads of unfinished tasks to take care of. So for the last few days before 27 May 2010, I had literally multi-tasked like never before – from shouting like a banshee at my support stuff for being lax, just because the boss was away to making copious "to-finish" lists so that I do not leave out everything, to telling the disapproving clients that "I will on leave during that point of time, hence…" to delegating all the unfinished works to the interns to shopping to taking charge of packing etc etc etc.. Phew! Finally, when I sat in Howrah-Kalka Express at around 6 pm, I was determined to leave behind all my work-related exhaustion in Calcutta and enjoy my vacation to the fullest.
My People-watching began the moment the train left the station. My parents are not adventurous enough to venture on their own and always like to have the comfort of a Travel Agency, for which they have been preferring Jatrik Travels for the last 4-5 years. With the packet of Biriyani provided by the Tour Manager safely tucked into my arm, I started the berth-debate with my father. I refused the top berth, which is usually my first choice, in favour of the side lower berth, another of my favourite place. I am sure you know why – its easier to observe more people from the side berths.
In the first night, sleep eluded me completely. I was all set for an enjoyably ‘rocking’ night time experience [no pun intended ;-)] in the train, but alas, a panditji played spoilsport 😦 This man in our compartment is the resident pandit of a temple in Calcutta, who, by his own confession, could not sleep in trains and hence regaled "Ramayan Katha" throughout the whole night! There was one other person, who out of either politeness or insomnia, listened to him and interspersed the monologue with "Haa ji", "Sahi ji" and "Jai Sree Ram". Amidst all this, the booming voice of panditji totally ruined my sleep 😦 Next morning, I realised that everyone around has been disturbed, but surprisingly no one intervened and asked him to stop! Politeness? Reverence for the person and the speech he was giving? May be, that was the reason because, had he been simply chatting, I am sure a lot of people would have shouted "dada, aaste… ghumote parcchi na" at him. [Translation: Brother, please talk softly… we can’t sleep]
Our co-passengers consisted of one aged lady, who had retired from teaching at the IIT Kharagpur, one family whose man only complained of stomach ailments, another family whose woman complained of how his son does not eat and a kid, who nagged to get me to play ludo with him. I realised, these days, conversations only mean complaints – complaints about health, Calcutta weather, Calcutta politics (the Kolkata Corporate Election were just round the corner), eating habits of sons, lack of womanly skills of daughters (yeah, that’s my mother talking about me) and so on and so forth. I got totally tired of the conversations flowing around me and buried myself into the book I was currently reading - Cold Steel by Tim Bouquet and Byron Ousey.
While I raced through North India, immersed in my book and snatches of conversations flowing around me, I came to know of the incident of Jnaneswari Express. I had once travelled by this train and had a never-to-forget experience. We all had an uneasy feeling about our own train journey. We had started on 27 May from Howrah and the accident happened the very next day, albeit on a different track. Rest of our journey was spent in discussing the mishap.
I ordered pantry car food from IRCTC this time and realised their quality has fallen way below. I hated all that they served in the name of food. On top of that, all of them came at an unreasonably steep price. Mamata di, are you listening? On the brighter side, we all were surprised at fragrant fresheners being sprayed in the coups every now and then!
After almost 34 hours of journey, we reached Chandigarh in the wee hours of 29 May. 🙂 After our morning tea and biscuits, we were all ready to start our journey to Shimla. Details of rest of the journey will follow soon. Promise 😉