When I had to go to Kerala to see the wife & kids, I chose to travel from Mumbai to Kasaragod (a silly little village in Kerala) by train. Truth be told I really enjoyed the trip.
Travelling in India can be a nightmare, that is if you want it to be a nightmare, it is actually a mind altering experience, despite having frequent flier privileges on almost all the preferred domestic carriers I chose to brave the overtly criticized train travel. Jai Ho..Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav, The honorable Union Railway Minister of the Indian subcontinent..
My romance with the Southern Railways started years ago, when I was a young Kid, fresh out of College, joined a Spanish Confectionary company called General de Confiteria India Ltd..selling Bubble gum & Chewy Candies. My first posting was in Kerala, North Malabar region (Palakad to Kasaragod), Fuck me was that a big mistake…anyway coming back to my romance with the railways..
Unlike other colleagues in the similar profession of sales & marketing, I would only travel by train, solely due to the fact that despite being able to speak Malayalam (the native tongue of Kerala) fluently, I cannot read or write one bloody word of it, therefore after being ridiculed on several occasions at bus depots all around Kerala, I swore that I would travel only by train..
Getting back to the trip from Mumbai, my adventure started at around 7 am, (at Versova, wherein my good friends Arjun & Shalina have very generously given me their spare bedroom to live in for the time being) after a refreshing cup of tea & morning ablutions then a quick breakfast, I hitched a ride with Arjun till Andheri(W), then took an auto to the Lokmanaya Tilak terminal (LTT) or Kurla as it used to be called. Mind you this is around 9:30 am, and the train leaves at 11:40, which is a good 2 hrs 10 min before scheduled departure.
Unfortunately I had the slowest auto rickshaw driver in the world, he refused to speed up his chariot despite my being really nice to him, eventually I did abuse his mother, father, wife, daughter, grandmother and some poor stray dog that he had supposedly buggered…yes and all the abuse was hurled at him directly. I felt really sorry afterwards, however the bastard deserved all of it.
Thanks to the snails pace this driver continued to maintain throughout out drive to LTT, I ended up missin the Train by 3 min, can u believe, 3 fucking minutes, 3 FUCKING MINUTES!!! bastard…, as I gathered my bags & rushed to try & board the train (which by the way had already left the platform), and as I thought in disgust, WHY ME??? WHY ME??? WHY NOW???OMG!!!, suddenly a voice behind me asks
“saab, Netravati Express?”
I say “Haan, Kyon??”,
He says “Tickeet confirm hain kya?”
I say “Haan, lekin Kyon??”
He says, “Chaaihe to apun train ko Panvel pahunchene se pahele aap ko ….”
I say “Chalo” and jump into his cab (By the way this guy was a Mumbai cabbie)
He took off like he was driving for Force India..
To put things in perspective, Kurla to Panvel by road is about 45 Kms, I missed the train at Kurla around 11:45 am, the train leaves Kurla & reaches Panvel at 13:00, about 1 hr & 15 min, believe me this cabbie made it to Panvel in about 50 min…amazing timing… although the cab trip cost almost as much as my ticket fare it was worth every naia paisa… what a relief to reach the station and to find out that I still had a good 20 min before the train to arrive…what a relief…
My biggest fear was that the TTE (Travelling Ticket Examiner), would give my berth away as I has failed to board at LTT, thankfully as I boarded and saw my berth empty I heaved a huge sigh of relief, just as I put my laptop bag on my seat and proceeded to push my trolley bag under the berth a porter places a humongous cardboard box between the seats. Let me get this correct…I had the side lower berth and those of you who have had the pleasure of travelling by train in India will agree with me that the side berths are the most uncomfortable seats available on any train, it’s like a coffin, really you feel like a corpse when you sleep, sit or even try to stand. And every tom, Dick and Kumar that passes by will invariably bump or rub themselves on you, furthermore, the backrests have to be released and folded downwards to convert it into a mattress.. Indians are really innovative.
Any way I was already pissed with the bastard auto driver, the speedy Gonzalez of a cabbie for the exorbitant fare and generally the whole fucking world in general and here was this porter clad in a dhoti & the red shirt with the brass coolie ID tag strapped to his left bicep, sweaty ant trying to place this huge box and make my 18 hour journey even more uncomfortable, I started yelling, and the same obscenities as before, cussed his mother, father and several other close family members and even the odd domestic pet.
Finally the owner of the box came to the berth and asked me what my problem was, my problem was that they had this really large cardboard box, which according to the railway rules pertaining to accompanied luggage should have been checked into the brake van, but we Indians being Indians want all our luggage tucked beneath our Buttocks..I stood my ground and outright refused to let them try and wedge it between the berth (coffin)..
The owner of this giant box was unfortunately a lady travelling to kerala by herself, and by the body language of the chap who had come to see her off at the station I figured that they were lovers(LOL), actually turns out that they were newly weds..poor souls do not realize that the mess that they had gotten themselves into (marriage that is I say), any way he gave me several dirty looks but I clearly told them that it was next to impossible to shove their box in between my seat and I prefer to sit rather than lie down for the entire 18 hours that my journey would take. Moreover for people who have travelled by our trains will agree that its next to impossible to sit comfortably on the berth once the seats are folded down, as its meant to sleep not sit, I repeat sleep not sit.. what to do I am a generously proportioned guy, and with the current look that I am sporting with a tonsured scalp & a diamond earring, not many people want to mess with me..despite my Mcsteamy looks (Grey’s Anatomy).LOL..
All good things must come to an end so I decided to lighten up, here was a lady, newly married travelling all by her self to her parents home, taking then a house warming gift which happened to be a brand new home theater system, that is why the box was so large & did mention that it was gift wrapped too.. so I caved in and after much coercion with the TTE, had my berth shifted to another one, frankly this was due to the fact that my side of the compartment did not have a plug point..Yes these days all bogies of the railways have individual plug points in all compartments for charging of mobile phones & laptops, that ladies and gentlemen is how much we have progressed, railways that is..
Otherwise the journey was without any further incident. I had some ready mixes prepared, namely whiskey cola concoction in a 500 ml coke bottle. Stood by the exit door and sipped on my ready-mix, watched the entire season 1 & 2 of Grey’s Anatomy, read some newspapers had loads of tea, snacks & meals..The food on board is amazingly good. For lunch I had roast chicken with biryani rice, and dinner was similar except that I chose to have chapatti instead of rice. And plenty of ready mixes.. Boy was I well stocked.
After dinner I placed a 20 rupee note in the hands of the AC attender and asked him to give me a wakeup call before Kasaragod as the train reaches there around 05:30 am, especially after the vast quantities of whiskey/cola that I had consumed, if I over slept I would wake up in Calicut…
Reached there safe & sound.