Friday, January 15, 2010
The Excitement at the Bandra Terminus and how we were in for a surprise...
It was never meant to be a third consecutive post on Indian Railways, but yesterday I happened to experience a wonderful event of sorts, so couldnt resist this lil piece. My mom, after her week long stay in Bombay, was returning to Baroda yesterday. I accompanied her to the railway terminus. Little did the two of us know that we are in for a sweet surprise.
While booking her ticket few days prior, I came across a train called Yuva Express, unheard of. This train operated between Bandra-Nizamuddin, obviously stopping at Baroda - and it was the only train with tickets available, which ideally should be good news when someones booking so late... but the number of seats available were so many that I had my doubts - "yeh train jaati bhi hai... itni seats kaise khali hain" - that too on one of the country's busiest routes!
Anyways, putting my reservations aside - and believing more in my last minute luck, I decided to go ahead with the booking!
So yesterday as we entered the Terminus, we saw (what looked to us then) the usual Railway station scenario, people running around - passengers, coolies, vendors all alike; very loud and equally incomprehensible announcements, the railway staff.... wait a second, the railway staff - with their crisp ironed uniforms... freshly shaved faces... sweepers with a grin on their face... suddenly all of it ceased to be a normal day - I observed closely there was a spring in their step, their was excitement in the air and before we could figure out, we saw it right there... right before our eyes.. in its splendid glory - the Brand New Yuva Express on the platform. Cliche, but it truly was decorated like a bride. Each door, each window, each coach was freshly painted with light green and yellow - you could smell the paint. The colorful decoration material, the shining frills, different flowers were all adding to the festive atmosphere - and then I realized, today was an auspicious day for a journey to begin - 15th January - and thus the Train's first run!
The brand new seats, the fresh green carpet, the non-corroded doors and no sign of those ubiquitous viscous red spits on the walls. No smells, no dirty spots and no leaking water from basins.
None of the passengers who'd decided to take on this chair car journey to en-route to delhi were expecting a travel like this! And as soon as they had settled in with their luggage, out came the camera-mobiles, the handycams, the still cameras - everything and anything that could capture that moment...!
Soon the new Engine was connected, The Local Band, who had been called started playing vigorously. An old frail man went down to the tracks and stood between the Engine and the Boggie - to connect it. He joined them via a hook and a few rubber tubes here and there. In the meantime the entire Railway staff was here. The guard had a fresh starched Green flag in his hand. The Black Coat TTEs, the senior personnel, the junior sub-ordinates, Engine Drivers, the Station Master, the technical staff, the Coolies, the railway police - all were beaming in pride. They all had red tikkas on their foreheads. It was a sight of familial bonding, a family we otherwise would have never imagined. And it occurred to me, like how each Railway Station is actually a separate universe with its own set of family members.
Since it was the inaugural run, the Flash Photographer was also here. I was seated with my mom and since it was a Chair Car, the seat besides me was still vacant. A particularly busy middle-aged businessman was just outside the coach talking loudly on his mobile. As soon as he saw the Photographer getting inside the coach with his bulky camera, the businessman cancelled his call and rushed inside pushing the photographer and hurriedly came in to take the vacant seat besides me.
I was surprised by this sudden behavior. I looked at him curiously, he saw me and turned while saying:
"Kya pata shaayad kal ke newspaper mei photo aa jaye..."
The Photographer adjusted his lens, and the businessmen adjusted his smile - FLASH....FLASH
Two photos in a row, as the photographer went ahead, the businessman started the mobile conversation again.
In the meantime the Band Master and is colleagues were on a all time high, signaling to us that the Departure time is near now. The most crowded section on the terminus was the first coach were the Name of the train was written on a crisply written signboard - "Yuva Express". Every tom, dick and harry was there with their mobile cameras and getting the photo clicked with the new train signboard. From the crowd came a coolie, fished into his pocket and came out with an expensive looking mobile. He requested someone
"Mera zara ek photo nikaal do na..." and went ahead to pose.
The Videowala with his shaky camera had joined in. As he entered the coaches, needless to say the businessman's mobile conversation had to wait and he again repeated the same flash smile - with the desire of a picture in next days paper, and excitedly took the seat.
A typical Delhi family entered the compartment with their fat, over-stuffed luggage and the same goes for their kids - fat and over enthusiastic. Amidst all this brouhaha, on the next platform was Kutch Express standing in its loneliness and being completely ignored. From the sight of Kutch Express it looked like the train was feeling a nostalgia - one which brings with it an all time low. There was a time - a time of her first run too and today... Never, like today, had her passengers ignored like this. The Engine and its Headlights' contorted facial expression. The vertical of this :(
Whereas the atmosphere on the Yuva Express platform was like the Titanic on its first run. The passengers sitting around my mom too were excited, some of them had started calling their homes and telling them "you better be on the railway station to receive us, you would get to see this fresh new train".
Ah! the joys of public transport in India.
As soon as the "full of vigor" Horn blared at its top - everyone from the Railway Station family called for a loud slogan that would mean that "let this train have an amazing run throughout the country". Slowly the train started moving out of the Terminus and the Band members were rigorously playing now. The passengers standing at the doors of coaches, as the train moved out they waved a "Bye Bye" - I dont know to whom - cause the bye-bye continued to the non existent -and long gone family members.... they were just waving in case the Video Camera was rolling on...!!!
And just when the last 2 coaches of the train, (which were completely vacant!!)passed by, a thought occurred to me - "Where are the Jack and Rose of this Titanic?".
And to my utter disbelief the last completely vacant coach - had a young lovey-dovey couple. The only ones to be on that coach - as the generator's hot air and the Guard's last coach passed by us - I thought about that much-in-love couple in that coach - hmmm "not for anything is the train named "Yuva Express..."
P.S: Later I read the news and came to know that Yuva Express is meant for the Unemployed youth of India. One can travel in an air-conditioned coach from mumbai to delhi or vice-versa in 300 Rs. Wow! I think the largest takers of the train would be the jobless (or rather the job seeking delhi youth) vying the film industry.
picture courtesy: The Hindu website
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