The following post is based on a post originally made by me to a closed Yahoogroup. I am posting this here as I could not resist the temptation of sharing an exhilirating train ride in monsoon here, based on the response that Karthik’s Train Journey to Thiruvalla got. This post does not contain any visual photographs. Hope you will like reading it through.
We had gone to Lucknow-our Home Station and had booked our return trip on the hallowed 5609 Abadh Assam express. We chose this train as we wanted to be home by Sunday(17.08.08) night as we did not want the kids to miss their schools as none of the overnight trains can give an assured timely arrival at Ghaziabad, our adopted Station. And there is no day train from LKO to GZB on Sundays except for Gomati and SwarnShatabdi, but then sitting in a confined space for 6 to 9 hours is tiring, especially so for ladies and kids.
So I had chosen this train which although has scheduled arrival and departure of 5:20 and 5:40hrs respectively, at Lucknow, I was assured of a comfortable Sunday waking up as while completing its 31 hrs of journey from Guwahati through WB and Bihar on single lines in many stretches, to LKO it invariably gets delayed by a couple of hours. I was relying on www.trainenquiry.com for an advance update on its running status. My train, that I would board on 17.08.08 from Lucknow, had to leave form Guwahati on 15.08.08 at 21:35hrs.
So far so good. After Rakshabandahan, my brother had decided to return a day before i.e. on16.08.08 by 4205 Padmawat Express. I went to see him off and sorted out the Side Middle Berth migration matter (please comment if you need further info on this matter) as his allotted berths had been changed on charting and these new berths were occupied by the original unsuspecting allottees of those numbers. However, matter was amicably resolved in a jiffy, just in time, when I took these unsuspecting passenger to the chart and showed them their new berth numbers.
On checking the running status of my train I came to know that it departed with a comfortable 8 hours delay from Guwahati. Now I was certain that we will get another lunch with our parents at LKO as it would not arrive before 14:00 hrs on Sunday instead of the scheduled 5:20, with more than anticipated and welcome delay. It is really rare that we get relieved by such inordinate delays of trains.
You will know what I meant from the previous sentence by reading follwing. Talking of delay reminds me of the fun we had while coming to LKO by 2230A LKO NDLS Superfast Special of 14.08.08 which was to leave GZB at 00:05 of 15.08.08. That was some day. On 14.08.08, since early evening TV was splashed with the continuously `being broken’ news of traffic jams arresting entire Delhi and NCR, probably as a result of a combination of reasons like incessant rain, security checks on IDay eve, everyone and their aunts deciding to leave the Town that very day, etc. People were continuously missing their flights, as continuously being broken as breaking news by the news channels-who else? It was just short of the Independence Day scenario or Armageddon for that matter. We were first hand aware of the festival rush at stations as one of my colleagues had gone to NDLS (New Delhi) early in the evening to drop his family for Lichhavi express. He came back bounced as parking had been banned at NDLS and no platform tickets were being issued. However, Lichhavi was nowhere in the sight of his poor kids and wife who were struggling to find their inches at the platform, whereas as per trainenquiry.com it was about to reach ALJN (Aligarh)!
It had been raining non-stop. So we thought we should not take a chance and we left for GZB(Ghaziabad Station), 20min from our home, at about 22:00, to reach there without facing any traffic snarls at 22:45 – the scheduled time of departure of 2230 LKO mail from GZB (Our train was at 00:05). The platforms were chockablock with the passengers of, well, LKO mail, Prayagraj, Rewa Express, Duplicate Lko mail (2230A), Triplicate :-) Lko mail (2230B) among many other trains. Since we had arrived quite in advance, we decided to wait at PF3 – by large the cleanest and most hospitable platform GZB got. The first announcement we heard said in an almost incomprehensible voice that LKO mail and PR had yet not been berthed at NDLS and further information will be conveyed as received. We knew we (Myself, wife, two kids, brother, wife, one kid) were going to have a long stay there.
The Platform Family Picninc
Kids having all the fun
So we decided to have a field day and spread our bedsheets at a cleaner and drier spot near some young students leaving for bandhing/bandhaoing rakhees. It was a three continuous leave package festival season and no wonder I came to know later that on that weekend Delhi wore a deserted look. We treated our kids with Kurkure and Chips and ourselves with the Chai and cold drink. I am station chai ka piyakkad, and a special fan of chai of GZB PF1-2. We were having so much fun and remembering our childhood days, when our parents would spread sheets at moonlit platforms in some nnodescript stations. Our place was comfortable and we though we could easily spent the rest of waiting. We took a couple of snaps for posterity. I knew that our train will come at PF-2 but idea of moving to PF-2 was not very exciting. Then some Keeda katoed me and I though of doing some survey and eventually FOBed down to the enquiry counter on the city side of GZB.
BTW, GZB is one of those rare stations where no PF is approachable without using FOBs. The caring gentleman behind enquiry counter gesticulated ‘two’ by showing two fingers. I tried to confirm as expected , “Do baje ayegi?” He repeated his gesture and said two number platform. On asking time he said “barah”. It was already 23:50, so I mobiled my brother to wrap up our set up from PF 3 and move to PF1-2. Fortunately we did not have much luggage. So we were there on PF 1-2 of Ghaziabad, which is entirely different in demography from PF-3. Incidentally I guess 2229/30 is the only set which is taken on PF3-4 in its both directions. Otherwise very few eastbound trains are taken on PF3-4 as most others, including Shatabdis, are taken on PF1-2.
PF1-2 is although a heaven for tastebuds, with the host of its assorted Pakori stalls and its thick teas, it looks neglected in cleanliness and sanitation. As soon as any local from Delhi side arrives, alighting passengers converge on these stalls to have their fill before they embark on the onward journey on foot, by road or by another connecting train. Though there are quite a few number of benches with fans above them, all of them were full occupied down to the Sahibabad end of platform. The floor of platform was not so hospitable as it is undergoing replacement of tiles. The PF is also home to quite a few beggars/alike of all excuses.
Even after 00:30 there was no announcement about our train, though the announcer, whose voice was more comprehensible on this platform probably because of absence of echo as there are no walls here, was informing that the LKO mail and Prayagraj were at NDLS platforms. Since all schedules had gone haywire, manual announcement had taken over from the recorded system. So here we knew that we were going to have a longer PF family conclave. We looked for some cartons to spread beneath our bedsheets. The benign stallowner gave us a big carton, on which we rested our backsides for another two hours before we eventually boarded our train to find our berths occupied by initially unrelenting waitlisted passengers, only to check and inform their allotted berths by calling 139, one by one. They gratefully vacated our all six berths and moved to their alloted confirmed/RACed berths in other coaches. Thankfully, the train was vestibulated. They told us that it was utter chaos at NDLS and that the chart was nowhere to be seen. I informed them that number 139 is one point solution for all passenger matters/queries, well, except for the running status of trains on which 139 was clueless that night. LKO mail, ShramShakti, Prayagaraj, had already went past us in the half hour between 01:00 and 01:30. There must have been something really serious at NDLS for these trains to get delayed by such an order. I wondered whether IR had deliberately delayed these trains to help the passengers who might have been stranded in traffic snarls that night.
Coming back to “Gauhati”, as 5609/10 is known in local parlance, the train has been known to never turn up before 09:00 at LKO, especially in its VB(Vacuum Braked) days which lasted till not so long ago, as this train was probably one of the last BG ones to be converted to AB(Air Braked). We have done a few trips by it in its VB days also and most of time it used to be like, “Abhi vacuum nahin ban raha hai…chal nahin sakti…”. Once it remained berthed at LKO PF for more than a couple of hours for this very reason.
Now, I was reassured in that I knew that it had been converted into AB (Air Braked). Sunday morning was a delightfully monsoon one, with an overnight drizzle greeting us. I checked the status at trainenquiry/139 and found that our train had made up about one hour in the night of 16.08.08 while it passed through Begusarai, Mujaffarpur, Hajipur, Sonpur, etc and the ETA for LKO had receded to 12:35 from 14:05 or so. But as day passed, the rain was unrelenting and the train started losing time.
At noon, the trainenquiry ETA (Expected Time of Arrival) for LKO was 13:30, though adding up from where the train actually was gave us that it wont arrive LKO before 15:30. Now reasons for worry started piling up as we had long back finished our Gauhati bonus lunch with parents. The train would reach GZB not earlier than 01:30hrs, which was not a very good scenario, going by the L&O situation here, even if the pick up discomfort to brother was kept aside. And add to that the expected condition of an inordinately delayed rake running through rain and thousands of kilometers.
Our train, which was almost entirely empty, arrived at about 15:15 at LKO and we comfortably boarded our compartment S10. We originally had 6 berths, which were reduced to 4 as brother had left a day earlier. As usual we got the end bay and our numbers were 66,69,70,72- no, this coach was not SMBed. It was still raining, but except for some wetness of the floor, our coach was unbelievably clean, to our relief and disbelief. The only other passenger so far in our bay was a young man, on 65.
So as the train moved, We encroached on 71 and spread our bedsheet (not the one used at GZB) and lodged both our kids on the SL for their window delight, that too in rain. Let me tell, it is really rare, that we travel in day train now-a-days as it is considered a waste of time, but I had taken this calculated risk to have a fun filled day ride during monsoon. So far I had been kind of repenting my decision, due to more than needed delay and rains.
But I felt an adrenalin rush when the train picked up speed against the rain and I said to myself that the pilot was going to have some fun with an empty 24er rake with just one AC and that too presumably empty. And that is precisely what he did. In a jiffy we were racing through Malihabad while rain was sporadically relenting.
After Dilawarnagar the rain relented but the LP didn’t. He kept pushing the notches up and now we had opened the window pans. The countryside was a sight to behold, emerging a misty green, much like someone’s glowing body after a long long shower, and the Dashahari Mango orchards of Malihabad, with their midget plants, had turned kind of a blackish shade of extreme green. The misty view was clear to a fair distance, enabling us a birds eye view of the fields basking in the green glory. I have never seen this region with such a pervasive vegetation. So the news that this rergion was having one of its all time best monsoons was not untrue afterall. For sometime, whenever I would speak to my parents, they would tell us that it was raining there, whereas, here in NCR we had been managing with just the sight of some local clouds. Local clouds, because many times, it rained in front of our office while the backside had only clouds and some sterile wind. Gods have been caring in that they never lashed the entire NCR in one go. So ii you were stuck in NOIDA due to a rainled traffic jam, you would have the relief of a freer travel when you reach Ashram as there would be no rain-pains. Lately there has been some rain here also and the delhi roads which were like the “Gaal of you-know-who” have now turned into a ‘Gaal of Om puri’ with due respect to the thespian. So it is not always and to everyone that rain brings pleasure.
But it had certainly done so to our family that day. My son had just been gifted a toy camera with filmroll (they still exist), by his aunt and I goaded him to capture that intoxicating sight of mango orchards. The wind splashed our faces as if we were driving through the enchanting hills of Garhwal, with open window pans. After a long long time I was having a train journey of this delight. In fact I do not remember when I last had one such. We were kind of soaking in the experience, while sipping the pantry tea which was far better than what we get on most flights. And why not, the train was coming from Assam, of all places. The Tata Tea train TVC started playing in my mind. To add to the joy, there were no local passengers to obstruct/obscure our joyride, as probably our coach was fifth from last and also due to the strict TTE who did a really commendable job in not allowing any unauthorized persons to travel in our coach. In fact he went to the extent of picking a fight with some police official who was keen on traveling on an upper class ticket of another train running behind ours. Despite all kind of genuine or otherwise reasoning with the TTE, the gentleman officer had to purchase proper tickets for the train.
In BE(Bareilly), our FIL-MIL had to come to see us at the station, with our favourite Kipps sweets.. And it is only Shranmjeevi Express, a SF that does LKO-BE in about three and and a half hours, but our Loco Pilot of my kind saw us in BE at 19:15 after having left LKO at 15:45. Obviously there was no train ahead of us to hinder our speed. I was wondering whether there is an empty slot for a train leaving LKO at 14:00 to land at NDLS at about 22-22:30, at least on Sundays, and whether such a train will shunt the SwarnShatabdi return trip from LKO. There is a Neelachal express but it does not touch LKO on Sundays, as it runs as Puri express and goes via Kanpur on alternate days.
It was getting dark and colder and I was still reflecting on the day ride that we just had . After BE upto MB(Moradabad) the LP maintained the speeds, though after MB, as there were quite a few crossings and some cautions also as doubling work and rail replacement is under progress, our average speed came down. However we were at GZB PF-3 at 00:30hrs.
I also saw that electrification was progressing at brisk pace between MB and LKO. It looked as if some stretches around Hardoi were already charged! However, this trip with a Diesel at the helm through the Gangetic plains being showered with a kindly rain was one electrifying experience which I wanted to describe as closely as I possibly could in words and share. It is low on details and high on emotions but hope you will enjoy reading this. All of us caught cold that day.
Please send in your bouquets. I hope there would not be any brickbats:-)