Saturday 25 July 2015

Riding On The Rajdhani

I decided to break the pattern. I decided to travel by train on a rather long journey. So instead of flying from Delhi to Bangalore, I decided to take the Rajdhani Express, a series of fast trains that connect the capital of the country, Delhi, to various other major cities in the country. Some acquaintances were rather surprised that I decided to make this journey. It was, after all, going to be a 36 hour journey. Besides, why would one undertake such a long journey on an Indian train when a flight would cost you about the same and the entire journey would take you one third of the time taken by a train! Well I undertook that journey anyway and all I can say to the non-believers is that I am very glad that I did.

I must confess that it was with great trepidation that I got on to the train at the Hazrat Nizamuddin station that night. I had done a little research over the internet and all I seemed to read were dire warnings about how dirty and smelly the train was. And how nobody seemed to be very happy with their journey.  After reading all that I must say that my journey was a rather pleasant surprise.

A major advantage of doing this journey by train are the series of beautiful landscapes you get to see and absorb as you move from one state to another and then another.

A View Through The Train Window While On The Move

We went through four tunnels while moving through the hills of Madhya Pradesh. They reminded me so much of travelling to Mumbai with our mother when we were little kids, and she made a game out of switching off all lights and letting the compartment become completely dark! For some reason it always thrilled us so much to go through those tunnels as kids! To my complete surprise, it still thrilled me to bits!

 We went to sleep in Maharashtra to the sight of black soil covered in lush green and moved on to Karnataka which presented a stunning view of bright red soil once again surrounded by and covered with lush greenery. Please note that all the pictures have been taken through a slightly cloudy window of a very fast moving train. I apologize for the rather poor quality of these pictures.

Karnataka's Red Soil
It was a pleasure simply to sit and watch the landscape rush by and change and transform right in front of your eyes. After all, no one can deny that India is a beautiful country. No single trip to the country is enough to see all it has to offer whether it is history that you are looking for or if you just have the desire to lose yourself in the lap of nature.

Another View Rushing By My window
Greenery And Black Soil In Maharashtra

Usually, on long distance trains, the staff on a train is completely changed at some point during the journey. Not on the Rajdhani though. This simple system allows you to recognize the staff that is serving you. In return, the staff recognizes you and some ways into the journey starts recognizing your preferences in terms of food, beverages and timings. Which is a big help as you don't have to keep repeating what you want and aids in a more seamless service. 

I would be greatly remiss if I did not give a special mention to the ticket collector. I travel a lot on trains in India. And every journey reads basically the same way. You get onto the train. After a few minutes the TT (ticket collector) comes by to check your ticket. He will probably be in the process of being harassed by various individuals who want to know if there are any extra berths available on the train or if they can change their berth with a better one. So they hurriedly tick you off in their list, maybe ask you for an ID and then without a second glance or thought move on to the next passenger. But not the TT on the Rajdhani. He had a look at my ticket and surprised the breath out of me when before leaving he said "Thank you very much Miss"!!!!!! I have NEVER EVER met a more polite TT even in my travels abroad! 

Anyway, moving on, considering I was travelling on a train which is notorious for sub-standard and poor tasting food, I was rather impressed with the meals I was served through out my journey. Ofcourse, you have to keep in mind you are eating food on the train and can hardly expect fivce star quality food on it! We were served 3 different types of soup during the journey (tomato, mixed vegetable and Rassam since we were travelling to the South). Since I had opted for non-vegetarian meals, I was served one chicken dish, one serving of dal (lentils), 1 serving of rice and a few chapatis. We were served food all day as they don't allow vendors to board at various stations as is the custom on the regular trains. They serve morning tea, followed by breakfast, followed by lunch, followed by tea, followed by refreshments and finally dinner. 

Overall, the staff on the train was very good. They came to clean our compartments at regular intervals. They asked us if we had any garbage to throw away after every meal. They came to spray the entire coach with a room freshener after every 12 hours or so.

I am now looking forward to the return journey... Yes you guessed it - by train! I know for a fact, that if I have the time the only way I am travelling long distance is by train.