“QUIRKY EXPERIENCES IN INDIAN TRAIN TRAVELS”
Arriving at the station an hour early, only to escape the peak evening traffic rush, i check the digital indicator, if my train’s in time. A simultaneous announcement too affirms this. Walking up to the food plaza on the station, I have a cup of hot elaichi tea, munch a few cashew butter biscuits, while packing a vegetable biryani for dinner. The train was on time. So far no issues, and I am glad I got a berth of choice too. Well ensconced on my side lower berth, i get chatting with others, as is common practice especially in the Indian train travels. Time flies but I notice something odd.
The train hasn’t moved from the station, and is already having an “unscheduled halt” if I may so call it. Comments made in common parlance often in lighter vein, imply that railways follow IST (Indian Stretchable Time). Humor apart, this delay is a signal that this isn’t going to be a journey of “depart on time and arrive on time”. My hunch comes true, as the moment the train starts, it halts a little further down the track, right immediately after crossing the platform. I walk up to the door to check why the halt, as i could hear some disturbance outside. Hoping all passengers have boarded, I get back to seat, once the train departs.
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Settling down, I have my dinner and prepare to sleep. All is well until midnight. Raining as it was the train wasn’t proceeding at the right pace, and I could sense that some caution was being applied. But in one of the intermediate stations, the train halted, while the time-table mentions it as a passing by station. This halt continued and was totally unscheduled in an under construction station. The reason given by the TTE, was that a goods train has to pass through, and since this was a single line track ahead, they have to wait till the goods train passes by. This kind of unscheduled halts leaves passengers plans awry.
There was no way the TTE could confirm when the train will move at the dead of the night. The painful wait began and it wasn’t until an hour or so, that the train made its move again. Having a meeting scheduled in the morning hours, I am left twiddling my thumbs not knowing whether I should get off at the next station and find my way or wait for the destination to arrive. To add to the ordeal, was that, the next station was where bogies of this train get attached to another train, to commence the journey to destination. Will that train come in time? That was a million dollar question. But I chose to wait.
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As expected the train is late. Now what do I call this? I hear voices speaking that this is nothing unusual on this route for this train I am travelling. Seems like any train whose slip coaches get attached to another main train almost always meets this fate. The rains only add to the distress. An “unscheduled halt” of the helpless kind. I was restlessly pacing up and down at the station. But not for long. Coaches from mine get attached and I am off to my destination.
There’s one thing that the Indian Railways are famous for. Making up for lost time between midnight and daybreak. Yes I was there at the destination at right time and my day got made. Despite this, the unscheduled halts are the bane of Indian Railways, one of the most congested and largest railway networks in the world.
I will cover on waiting for pantry food in one of my upcoming posts.
Until then here’s signing off for the day. Please come back for more tomorrow.