Tag Archives: railways

Indian Level Crossing

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I am always fascinated by anything related to railways. Traveling on trains is one of my favorite things in India. Sometime I do write about my fascination with Indian railways. One scene that particularly attracts my attention while traveling on a train is that of people waiting for the rail to pass by so that they can cross the railroad. They have proper level crossing at many places but they are not enough, perhaps. People just cross from anywhere they feel like crossing. Whenever I have to go to Lajpat Nagar, I go via one of those unofficial level crossing near block B of Jangpura. (Chorbato, I was told by my colleague who first showed me that path.) It’s like crossing the road, you have to be careful and watch on the both sides. You have to be quick too. I can see many people crossing from here. Recently I took photos with my iPhone.

Sh..Sh… Shivering in a Train Ko Dibba

The day passed quickly. I was observing people and activities in the train compartments (dibbas). I moved around to feel the atmosphere. While doing so I was always thinking about my backpack that was on my seat. The luggage could be picked up anytime by anyone, I kept telling myself or so I was told about train journey in India by several people. That was the one problem of traveling alone in India, I concluded. You can’t roam around freely without worrying about the safety of your luggage.

I ordered food and that came at around 9 PM. I didn’t know how the seating arrangement worked during night when people needed to sleep. I kept wondering how that seat, the one in the middle of the three-layered berth, could be unfolded to turn that into bed. The moment of revelation came when a person unfolded it to make room to sleep. The three-layered ‘bed’ structure of the seats reminded me of the double bed of the hostel where I spent two years during my pre-primary days.

I didn’t have a blanket or the bed sheet so I just lied on the seat. It was so strange to sleep like that. The backpack was on the floor attached to the side of my seat where my head rested. I think I fell asleep soon….

…only to realize that I was shivering in the middle of the night because of the cold air that was coming in from the windows from the other side of the compartment. I took out the sweater from my bag and used that to cover my head and chest. I knew it wasn’t working but there was no other option. The other clothes I had carried were t-shirts and kurtas only. Somehow the ordeal was done with as the dawn broke and the sunlight started coming through the windows. It was another day in the train.

Next: Trivendram, the town of Dhoti

Gorakhpur & Rapti Sagar Express

Gorakhpur Rail Station
Gorakhpur Rail Station

The north Indian town of Gorakhpur is not new to many Nepalis who go to many places of India via Sunauli border point. There is even a popular song that mentions Gorakhpur and the lyric goes something like this: “Aama rundai gaun beshi melai ma, chhora rundai Gorakhpur railai ma” [While mother is crying in the fields of village, her son is weeping in a rail in Gorakhpur.] The song must be talking about the plight of poor Nepali migrant workers who go to Indian cities looking for jobs. Thousands of Nepalis do a very difficult journey to find even more difficult jobs that pay little but demand a lot of labor. I had an encounter with a group of such Nepalis in Dailekh-Achham districts last February that was returning home carrying goods like a radio cassette player and cheap clothes. Here is the story that I wrote after following a boy to his home. Continue reading

Back in Kathmandu

It should have come up here yesterday but I was too occupied by other activities. I came back to Kathmandu yesterday afternoon. I went to office directly and assumed responsibilities (of talking about the trip with colleagues!). Then to home in the evening. Nothing more for now. I have to finish a story for Koseli today as it goes to press this evening. Then I plan to post more journals from the trip along with the photos.

Bombay!

I arrived in Bombay yesterday morning…got off at Mumbai CST (railway terminal) at around 6 am. I saw a news kiosk that and bought almost all English language newspapers (and a Marathi one: Apala Mahanagar). I quickly found a guest house that was cheap. I threw my backpack, tried to sleep for an hour or so, took shower and got out on the streets of Bombay that were slowly becoming crowded. In the beginning, as I headed unknowingly towards Bombay Stock Exchange tower, I was kind of intimidated by the cityscape. It felt grand. The old colonial styled buildings were impressive I remembered walking on the streets of New York. The streets are wide and clean: I had expected the opposite. I walked around for about two hours…but the place started getting hotter. Soon I found myself inside a travel agency office that offered the tour of the city for Indian Rs 120. In half an hour I was in Gateway of India. By the time the tour ended at 8 PM, I had reached to some of the famous places of the city including Marine Drive to Juhu Beach. Other passengers curiously got up from their seats and ran toward the windows when the guide, pointing a house, said: Amitabh Bachhan. But I was interested in the beach and the towers, not where the actor lived. [More about Bombay in one of the next posts.) Continue reading

India Diary: from Kanyakumari to Rameswaram, Bangalore and Goa

It’s been a couple of days since I posted my last entry about my visit to India.

Meanwhile I went to several places in south India.

1. Kanyakumari: Saw the sunrise which is more or less similar to the one that I had seen from Nagarkot a few months ago. Ate food on banaba leaf.
2. Rameswaram: Slept outside a hotel gate.
3. Madhurai: Went to Meenaxi temple wearing dhoti.
4. Bangalore: Gatecrashed a handwriting workshop.

The other experience: Bus journey (sleeper coaches), shivered all night on AC.

Here is the detail: I went to Rameswaram (from Kanyakumari via Madhurai) on Thursday I think (I will confirm the days when I get time as I am not keeping tack of days really). I stayed there for a night and half a day. I reached Rameswaram at around 4 in the morning. The autowalla who took me near the temple from the Railway station helped me to look for room in hotels but no success. All hotels, at least those around the temple, were occupied. Or perhaps that was a bad timing, people were sleeping on the reception desks and floors. When woken up by us they would simply give us a  reply: no, nahi, room nahi.

It’s still dark and I was already there… very tired because of whole night of train journey. I had started from Kanyakumari at 5:50 PM, reached Madhurai at around 10 PM, stood in a long line for the ticket there and left Madhurai at around 11:30 PM. There were very interesting young folks in the compartment and we talked a lot (as and when the horn of the train permitted us to talk) and I felt that the distance was covered very quickly. Continue reading

Passage To India

Yes, after three entire days and two nights of journeying in the train, I have arrived in Trivendram, south Kerala, India yesterday evening (8:30 PM). The train, Rapti Sagar Super Fast Express, started from Gorakhpur at 6:30 AM on 28 September. That was the first time I had ever stepped into an Indian train. The train was huge and, in the beginning, I was kind of overwhelmed by the size and the intensity of everything surrounding it (the huge trains,noisy platforms, overhead bridges ).

wagle in India

wagle in India

I was happy that I could find the correct compartment without hassle and confusion as expected. A teenage girl was on my seat and I told her that that was my seat. It was a full fledged bed actually where I would spend two nights. The first night was cold and I was shivering. I had closed the windows but the wind kept coming in from the other window of the neighboring cabin. I hadn’t carried any blanket but the sweater that was in my bag made for its absence. I wore it along with a woollen cap. The next day, I felt the effect. I wasn’t feeling hundred percent well. So I drank a lot of water. By the afternoon, I was feeling a lot better.

wagle in India

I spent the first day looking outside, feeling the train and absorbing the atmosphere. I tried to immerse into the crowd and the atmosphere.

Then there was an unexpected visitor who asked for the time in Nepali. I didn’t have a wrist watch and I was sure he had seen it. But then I saw the cell and told him the time. This guy, a Nepali aged 22 and an Indian Army soldier, was heading towards Trivendra. It took me no time, not even a single second, to see a story in him. So a story had come to me, just like that…and was sitting just in front of me…telling his story..of course…my questions helped him to be on track. He was travelling alone like me, and he enjoyed talking. I enjoyed listening, asking and noting down his words on my notebook as the Rapti Sagar Super Express headed southward.

There is a different world inside the train. Those people hawking “garam chaaaya” (hot tea) and “kaaafi” (coffee) – the designated staffs of the Rail canteen- and many other outsiders selling all sorts of food…. were simply awesome. I tried many of those foods and I liked most of them. The coffee wasn’t very good but it was the next thing after water I drank the most.

They would take order for “khana” (rice and daal and tarkari and achar) and I happily ate four such meals- four mornings and evenings.

A North Indian family from Gorakhpur was travelling with me….a lady, her husband and their daughter. They were going to Chennai to see their son who was in hostel studying computer engineering. I felt comfortable leaving my backpack on the seat and go around the train as long as they were there in the compartment. After they left, I carried my bag even when I was in the toilet. It was quite an experience!

You can not only see the difference in landscape and the bustling cities as you go southward but actually feel it. It’s calmer down here compared to what it was in north. The train was almost empty as we left places like Chennai and headed downward. People were more calm and composed and appeared to be following the rules. They didn’t understand Hindi and, depending on where the train was running, spoke the local language (and some English as well).

Dinesh Wagle

Continue reading