Night train to Bangalore

Passengers just stretch out to sleep on station floor!

IF you plan to travel in India, be sure to do at least one sector by rail. I strongly recommend it as my journey from Chennai to Bangalore on the night train was an eye-opening adventure that will last me a lifetime.

With tickets for berths, my group and I arrived at the Chennai Railway Station, lugging our bags and knapsacks. Trolley bags were easy to handle and we dragged them along, politely refusing offers from friendly porters. We’d heard horror stories of how helpful porters may even help themselves to travellers’ luggage so we decided we’d manage among ourselves.

Passengers waiting for their trains in station
The Railway Station is a legacy of British architecture designed with high ceilings and beautiful archways. A few modern features like rows of seats, wall fans, chrome barricades and convenient electrical points for handphone charging, have been added.

Used by hundreds of people every day, the station’s bare cement floor had a smooth sheen from centuries of natural “polishing”.

As the night grew late, travellers weary with waiting just dozed off in their chairs. We watched in surprise as some simply stretched out on the bare floor for a more comfortable position. Not only men but women and children also snuggled down on any vacant spot. Very soon the station floor was a colourful mosaic of people in various prone positions!

There's hardly any standing room with so many people there!
Announcements were made in several languages and we were ready to board when our train was announced.

We didn’t realise that our First Class A1 coach would be among the first few coaches and as the train reversed into the station, we had a long, long way to walk before we reached it. We had some tense moments, fighting our way through the thick crowd with luggage in tow and eyes scanning coaches for our coach number.

I was simply distracted by the sight of people being jam-packed into Economy coaches. Suddenly, we heard whistles and shouts in Tamil which we guessed meant “all aboard”. We panicked because the train was ready to pull out. Someone in our group frantically yelled, “Just get on board!” meaning, we could slowly find our coach after we boarded but thankfully we finally found it with our names pasted on the outer wall!

Toilet bowl in the train
It was four to a cabin with two sets of upper and lower bunks, made up with sheets, blanket and a pillow. We locked ourselves in and for security, agreed to escort each other to the common toilet at either end of the coach. When I had to go, I did so in an amazing balancing act, moving with the rocking rhythm of the train.

The temperature fell as we moved into the highlands and it was freezing in the cabin. We tried to turn off the fan and air-conditioning but discovered too late, that the switches were set in the opposite way, with No 3 being the slowest and No 1 being the fastest. When the train chugged to a stop before dawn, we were stiff as icicles.

This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Travel Times on 28 April 2009

In the wee hours of the morning, we arrived in Bangalore and
took auto's like these to our lodgings


No comments:

Post a Comment