Tuesday, August 04, 2009
(An old incomplete post that got missed out sometime ago, now dusted and completed.)
Travel by train teaches you many things, not least of them is the extent of selfishness of many people you travel with. My first learning (actually I learnt this a few trips ago, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks) is to avoid the sleeper class or the 3rd AC compartments whenever possible.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not snobbish or anything and I prefer the sleeper classes because in those compartments you get fresh air and reduces claustrophobia and also because the people traveling sleeper seem more sociable than those traveling in the higher classes. Sometimes you just travel with minimal or no contact with the co-passengers.
But my acute dislike for the sleeper class is because of a few things: Lalu’s idiosyncrasy in adding an additional berth in the side and making overall travel extremely uncomfortable to those poor souls stuck on the side berths. Since I make last minute bookings I end up with side berths. The side berths by themselves are not bad if you get the lower, but here comes problem number two. Any numbers of women, arthritis patients, geriatrics, heart patients and what have you seem to spring up out of nowhere to claim that lower berth as their own as if it was their birthright. Very often these crack pots do not have the basic courtesy to even excuse themselves, saying you can sleep elsewhere as I have this problem and so on. Another big problem is the urge to eat and sleep the minute the train leaves the station. The other day the train started at 7.30, by 7.45 two huge old women had finished their dinner and stared at us poor co-travellers menacingly urging us to lower the middle berths for one of them to sleep and the other fought a loosing battle with a heart patient for his lower berth.
With the advent of the internet booking you have a choice of the berths and often you get what you want, but inevitably the lower berth seems to be coveted by many who come up with every possible excuse to dislodge you from it. I have heard of arthritis, weak heart, back pain, ladies can’t climb and many more and though I sometimes move up, I find this very irritating of late. If I must travel by a sleeper class in the summers I try to get a lower berth because of the window that allows some air circulation, but have to endure these whiners who try to shame you out of your seat and then promptly drop the shutter to stifle you for the entire journey.
You have some who come with the loudest kids around ( I like kids, I really do) who climb every where, throw things around and then throw tantrums around while the lovely parents totally oblivious to all these go about with their activities. I remember one sprightly kid who insisted on wishing every one good night late in the night, its not a bad thing actually, unless you were sleeping and were woken up to hear the angelic good night.
You have those who ensure that the journey is a gastronomical adventure, coming with huge packed meals that will make the coach smell like a food cart. I have been assaulted by the smells of biriyani to curd rice and sometimes too much of it can be bad especially for people with olfactory disabilities like myself.
All said and done, train journeys are great experiences and can be quite memorable (now you can understand the picture).You never know what they may throw at you.