Anyway back to the Kovai express, it brings back memories of fighting for the “window seat” so that we may watch the landscape going by. The constantly changing landscapes, the occasional bridges with their thunderous noises kept us entertained till we eventually dozed off in the heat. An additional attraction of these journeys was the pantry car, which was a novelty in those days. I was a big fan of the cutlets in those days and the novelty of eating on the move made it so much more enjoyable. The chair cars in these day trains are in the 3 X 3 configuration and seemed so comfortable to us and as air-conditioned travel was too expensive we had never tried a cool journey.
Today the same Kovai express journey seems to be a drag as 8 hours is too long for my comforted posterior and being used to “simpliflying” I prefer to give trains the go by. My recent memory of this train was when I had to take it to Katpadi / Vellore a few years ago as the bus journey was a nightmare. The ac chair car for all its aspiring luxury status is still uncomfortable and the catering is passable to say the least. I could not wait for the journey to end.
If you are wondering why I’m writing this post its because the other day I saw this scene in थे Central station.
The above is the unreserved compartment of the train. With not enough breathing space in the compartment, those seen in the picture were struggling for a foothold on the footboard. I shuddered at the thought of a journey like that for at least 4 hours with no access to food, drink (no pantry access for the unreserved) or even worse the toilet.
Will the Lalu magic that revived the railways be able to meet the burgeoning demand for seats? Can the Indian Railways bear this load with its creaking infrastructure? And will super fast expresses ever be fast?