Train to Calcutta

Tendulkar (fan_2000) pulled out of the tour at the last moment citing Lateral Placement Interviews. So it was just the five of us who were going now. All our well-laid out plans for team selection for different quizzes were now wiped out. It was simply decided that sumo yet so far (Sehwag, Dravid (kodhi) and Yours Truly) would be one team kaif and yuvraj (udupa and ) would be the eternal sunshine of the spotless behind.

Sehwag is too pseud to travel in second class so he didn’t join us in the train. So the four of us it was that took the ardous journey, via madras. Howrah Mail ended up a whole seven hours late, which meant that the quizzes had started by the time we reached.

Indian Railways has this irritating concept when it comes to late trains. They minimize the NUMBER of trains that are late rather than the total delay across trains. Hence, once Howrah Mail becomes late by even half an hour, it is pushed down the priority order and consequently loses further time. There were numerous times when we had to wait in order to make way for a goods train! And there was this occasion when the train started from this vague station in Gultland and I thought it was moving backwards because someone on the platform was walking faster than the train!

Speaking of Gultland, it is one neverending landmass. We would have spent close to 24 hours just traversing the Gult coast. Dravid even suggested that there might be a thin strip of gultland across orissa all the way upto Bengal, when we were wondering when Orissa would start! And contrary to my expectations, most of the landscape were green. The fields looked well irrigated and I see many farmers tilling the land. My only other train journeys through Gultland have been through Rayalseema, which might have given me the impression that all of Gultland is one dry arbit landmass.

Food was a bit of a problem during the journey. Didn’t find decent stuff in a lot of places and subsisted on biscuits and lays. Had some idli-vada at vijayawada (for which they hardly provided any chutney) and some arbit pooris at kharagpur. Somehow got a kick out of drinking chai out of a khullar in kgp.

Then, as one would expect in a second class compartment, there were the usual irritants in the journey. Beggars, peddlers, dirty loos and the like (thankfully no eunuchs though). However, the single biggest irritant was people singing on the trains and demanding money for the “service”.

Recently Abhishek Thakore had come up with the novel business plan of training beggars to sing in trains. This way, they are no longer beggars, he said. Rather, they would be providing people with a “value added service”. In effect, he seems to suggest that by making beggars “sell products” such as their music, everyone would be happy.

However, the whole problem with this is that this service is uncalled for. In fact, it can be jarring at times and can in fact be a pain. Whoever said that music is a universal cure, especially when it is sung by a handful of street urchins accompanied by a drum or cymbals! I would rather pay a couple of rupees to a sad-faced bugger who just sticks his hand in front of me than to someone who would pain the shit out of me for a few minutes.

To put it in milder terms, I would see it as a “service” only if the following points hold:

– The product or service offered is not a pain
– I solicit the product or service rather than it being offered first and me being asked to pay later.

Anyways, despite these irritants, the trip on the whole to Cal was good. It had been a long time since I went on a long-distance journey by second class. I can probably say that the whole thing was a nice learning experience. 🙂

I know I’ve ended this abruptly but I’m way too sleepy now to continue. You can expect posts soon regarding my experiences AT cal and my way back.

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