Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Travel: A round trip by train

Last Thursday I went to Bangalaore by the Shadabthi Express. The first thing that struck me was the difference in the onward and return fares. The latter was lesser. It took me some time to sort that out.

It was my maiden trip by the much touted Shadabthi. Clean compartment. The wide seats, two abreast with fold back middle arm rest, were comfortable. The airconditioning was just right. The toilets were spotless. They had paper rolls and genuine undiluted liquid soap.

Shortly after we left Chennai Central at 5.30 p.m. high tea was laid out – sandwich, samosa, wafers in three different flavors, and so on. Most of the passengers stuffed the goodies into their bags.

Then it was dinner time. Again substantial quantities served by smartly attired bearers. Quite tasty too. All included in the fare. Read for sometime and presto we were in Bangalore Cantt. The distance of about 355kms was covered in approximately 4 ½ hours.

The return train yesterday was to start at 6 a.m. Reached the City Station at 5.30 only to be told that Shadabthi was cancelled. Informing passengers over phone about such changes is apparently not a part of the railway culture.

After a while I was told that three additional AC chair cars were being attached to the Lal Baugh Express leaving at 6.30. I got a seat in a 1992 vintage coach. One could buy breakfast from vendors (railway employees?) wearing clothes that required washing a week ago.

Half an hour out of Chennai Central it was announced that the train was being diverted to Egmore Terminus. The reason? Two bogies of another train had derailed at Central Station. But that had happened the previous night. The passengers could have been informed even before our train left Bangalore.

Since my driver has a mobile phone I could direct him to Egmore. Passengers who didn’t have that facility had to engage taxi or auto rickshaw from Egmore to Central for boarding their cars.
One must however acknowledge that the hefty difference between Shadabthi and the Lal Baugh Express fares was refunded within half hour of reaching Egmore at the end of the 6 ½ hours journey.

Now, the reason for the fare disparity between the Bangalore bound and return Shadabthi - on the outward journey high tea and dinner are served while only breakfast is provided when you come back.

The Shadabthi Express is good – when it runs!


Also see:
Memories: Shoeless on suburban train.
Travel: Shendurney, the Royal Tree
Bangalore: Of a club, a park and a Chief Secretary couple

1 comment:

guru said...

Interesting journey indeed. I am not sure what the return fare is from Chennai to Bangalore for travel in this express. Whatever it is, it should be more than what my annual salary was some 35 years ago! I cannot understand why it should take 4.5 hours to cover 355Kms journey in rocket-launching India? Your experience in terms of train cancellation, passenger treated with disdain etc..is no better than my experience in 1960s with Brindavans.

Talking about grand trains and good food, until last year I used to travel in TGV a few times a year on business trips. But being a vegetarian and a teetotaler I could enjoy only the fast and smooth ride on this majestic train, and my food was mere home prepared cheese and tomato sandwich washed down with Evian mineral water!!

But nothing compares to the experience of traveling in steam locomotive express trains between Mysore and Bangalore, then a metre gauge line. When these trains stopped at Maddur for nearly 25 mins to take in water for their boilers, the passengers dived to the railway stalls selling masala vadas(vades) Those masala vadas with chutney were so delicious. Rupee bills changed hands fast in exchange for tens of these vadas.
We used to travel semi-hungry to prepare ourselves for those vadas!!

I like those 1950s open window bogies and steam locomotive more than a 2008 TGV running smoothly between Paris and Lyon!