Thursday, May 28, 2015

Jai ho! Indian railways!

I don't generally have family visiting me and since last year, I prefer to travel by air - even if it stirs the inexplicable binge. Yes, I am nervous about flying, I guess I will always be but it is time-efficient. So, when my maternal uncle and aunt came to visit me, I was excited to pick them from the railway station. I remember feelign excited about returning to the railway station after so many months, little did I know what lay in store for me that very evening.

The Gujjar uprising has led to delay and rescheduling of several trains and Indian railways, at its competent best, thinks it only wise to have travellers wait at the platform, in the heat wave that is causing roads to warp. So, the Mumbai bound Rajdhani was scheduled to depart from New Delhi railway station at 4.25 pm. We arrived well in time and were at the platform by 4 pm, only to realise that the train had been rescheduled for 6 pm. The gruelling two hour wait in the summer heat gave me ample opportunities to see children and elders getting sick and throwing up on the tracks. Few local trains came and went, we waited, gulping water whenever we could, unable to leave the platform with the luggage we bore, unable to find a single decent spot to sit under the inefficient ceiling fans. Perhaps, I should not blame the fans, the phone showed a temperature steady at 45 degrees.

When it was finally 6 pm, horrified expressions went about as GT Express pulled into the platform number 3. Most of the travellers bound to Mumbai via the Rajdhani were sick already and very visibly irritated as the announcer said that the Rajdhani faced certain technical issues and would be brought to the platform after the GT Express departed. This last hour is when pandemonium ensued. Tempers flared and frequent sickness led to a general stench of vomit and sweat on the platform. The Rajdhani finally pulled in at 7 pm. Travellers had no way to know when they would reach Mumbai but it didn't seem to matter as everyone clambered onto the AC coaches for whatever respite they could find.

Most of the women had been consuming a lot of water, owing to the heat, but were not able to use the toilets and there was quite the rush to occupy the washrooms even before the train left the station. The train finally left at 7.25 pm. Leaving my uncle and aunt to find their way to Mumbai with whatever food Rajdhani would provide, an extra bottle of water and some fruits, I mustered whatever strength I had left to head back home in the city. I got sick on the journey back.

My uncle and aunt, meanwhile, called the next day to share that the train would take 26 hours to get them to Mumbai. They thanked me for the fruits I had left with them, there was little else to have. The constant question that arose was why Indian railways cannot make a simple app to notify travellers of trains running late or were rescheduled? Why did travellers for several trains have to wait in the gruelling heat only to be told that the train had been cancelled? My uncle and aunt reached Mumbai at 11 pm last night, 28 hours after departure from New Delhi. Needless to say, they will not be taking a Rajdhani for a very long time.

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