Saturday, January 9, 2010

Train to Bangaluru

My first long distance (over 7 hours) train journey was a fascinating experience. On 19th of December, 2009, at around 10.00 pm, we left for Bangaluru from Mumbai LTT, for a 23 hour train journey through some of the most dramatic landscape that I have ever seen. As students, broke, and hoping for travel reimbursement, we decided to travel 2nd class ordinary, on a passenger train taking the longest route between the two cities (the Coimbatore Express).

The journey as such was uneventful, but contained a wide array of people from all walks of life. As the train left the station from Mumbai, few people were in our compartment, and no one bothered to sit in their assigned seats. Everyone was scattered comfortably all around. There were a bunch of slimy looking people across the aisle, playing cards and talking loudly, and behind us, on the topmost berth, was a man ready to sleep, lying down, all snuggled in, with his tape recorder/mp3 player blaring some beautiful Mohd. Rafi songs. I couldn't help but hum along, "yeh chand sa roshan chehra...".

As we approached Pune, people got off (the slimy group among them), and our neighbours for the rest of the journey, a young couple, saccharinely in love, boarded the train. The windows by now had been forced shut by the cops for there was unrest in Andhra Pradesh due the Telanagna thingy, and there had always been a gang of robbing thugs in the whereabouts (so a friend told me), thus we had a couple of cops in our compartment till light dawned and the chai, coffee and breakfast wallahs came to sell their wares around 6.30 am, when people started waking to utilize the facilities. The toilets on the train were surprisingly usable, better than most public toilets one can find in Mumbai, and definitely superior to the one found in the G7 multiplex.

I hadn't slept much (perhaps 3 hours at most), mainly out of excitement, but sleep literally flew away after I saw a cockroach trying to find shelter in a sleeping friend's hair. The lone mouse in the compartment (active only after 7.30 pm till 6.30 am), wasn't much of a bother.

As I had not slept much, I managed to occupy the window seat before anyone else in our group could, and looked out of the window for most of the day. I saw the soil get redder, the grass greener, and the flowers obtain a deeper vibrancy. The transition was not dramatic, but was perceptible. Then came the dramatic rock formations along the river Krishna, very beautiful indeed, looking like old abandoned forts created by Nature herself.

Lunch was a methi thepla with aachaar for me. Every one had brought packed lunches, and our neighbours had it expertly packed and segregated according to meal and wrapped with newspaper and string. It consisted mainly of a heap of rice, which the couple fed each other.

After the obligatory games of Antakshri, we had our dinner, and waited for our destination.

Bangaluru is a horrible city for a tourist who is alone, broke and doesn't know the local language. The public transport system is rubbish and disorganised, so it takes a person 2 hours to reach a place that he can within 30 minutes, thus wasting the day in travel. Alternately, he can travel by autorickshaws (the option I had to reluctantly choose). These are exorbitant, and like to charge extra money (at least Rs. 20) on longer (over 5 minutes) journeys. So, one ends up spending around Rs. 500 just on traveling in one day. In Mumbai, you can do it in Rs. 50. The weather was pretty pleasant.

The train journey however, was not unpleasant. May be more fun travelling first class though.