Thursday, 6 October 2011

Travel with the Indian Railways

When was the last time you travelled with the Indian Railways? If you remember, do you have fond memories of those days? OR have you always been dissatisfied with the level of hygiene or punctuality that is so much not maintained in the railway station as well as in the train? I enjoy the trains as much as I enjoy the airplanes; however I was in for a pretty pleasant surprise while on an overnight travel from Bangalore. To start with the Railway Station seemed a lot cleaner than what I had found a couple of years back and a lot more convenient –right from the ticket booking stage.

Nowadays, Indian Railways requests you not to take print out of your e-tickets [if possible], and instead keep a PDF copy of the same in your smart-phone, laptop or any such device. This approach [if implemented by all the e-ticket passengers] is going to save about 0.3 million A4 size papers every day! I find this as a great gesture by IR towards being responsible towards –“Save paper, save trees”. When the ticket checker came in, he accepted the electronic versions of the ticket with a photo ID –absolutely no problem.

Second surprise was the fact that all the platforms are now connected to each other via the subways apart from the overhead bridge. A lot of you might have seen these but now along with the stairs to can reach the subway from the platform via the large elevators that are on every platform. This makes carrying a lot of baggage so much convenient. And yes the elevators work as well.

Another important factor –cleanliness. The platform and the rail tracks besides the platform were quite unusually clean. No litter here and there and the people were behaving quite responsibly. I saw an elderly lady take the pain of walking all the way from where she was sitting to a dustbin to throw a polythene bag. In another instance I saw a young teenager teach his 4 or 5 year old brother to throw garbage in the trash can only. Small gestures, but these ensured that we kept our surroundings clean. Inside the train, I saw hand-wash liquid soaps besides every wash basin! Good quality hand-wash, clean toilets –no stink and no nonsense written all over the place. I was so superbly surprised!

There was a time, about 20 years back when train travels were taken to visit relatives living at-least a couple of days’ journey apart… mostly taken in summers. And Air Conditioned coaches used to be less in number and pretty expensive. By the end of the travel I used to look like a ghost –effects of sitting besides the window all along the way. Mom used to pack food at-least for one day –stuff which wouldn’t get spoilt by then… and then we always had tea from the hawkers served in clay pots, bread pakoda, samosa, jhal muri, roasted peanuts. I remember every time we crossed Nagpur [the Howrah Express used to take a 30-45 minutes break here] my uncle used to come and visit us in the station with some yummy kheema parotha… prepared by my aunt… those days were fun. Otherwise we always had the pantry car somewhere in the middle of the train. I know, in those days food from outside –hawkers, pantry car –was not prepared in the best of hygiene, but I do not remember falling ill even once. And well the best part in those days –people from all walks of life used to come together for a few hours… used to meet as strangers and part away as friends. People would talk, share experiences, anecdotes, play cards and I used to have a great time listening to elders talk –atleast here my parents couldn’t tell me to go to my room and keep my ears off whatever was being discussed.

Life is a lot different now. Life is fast and our travel times have been reduced to about a couple of hours… thanks to inexpensive air tickets. Now we hardly talk to our fellow passengers or most of the times try to feign sleep. Nowadays we get no time to anticipate home, of that feeling of gradually being home, which I used to get long long time back. Times have changed, we also have to change… but this time, even the Indian Railways have changed. This time around, if you are not too hard pressed for time, try taking the train –who knows, you might also be as surprised as I was!

1 comment:

Pushpak . . said...

Dunno. Last I travelled in Indian railways was way back in March 2009. My current 'experience' is what I hear from people back home. And what I hear is quite opposite from what you experienced, especially on the cleanliness part. Maybe all stations have not evolved as Bengaluru . .