Tag Archives: train

British Train: First Class Journey

Things that you didn’t see or experience while growing up often generate curiosity in you whenever you come across them. The level of curiosity increases if such things are not yet part of your daily routine. They invoke a desire in you. The desire to own, control or use them. Rail network is one such thing that we don’t have in Nepal. Many in Nepal want to see a functioning railway network in their country. They want to travel in trains.

Many of us get our first rail experience in India because of the country’s geographical proximity and other socio-economic reasons. My first real train journey (not counting the metro rail commutes in DC and NYC) was in India in 2008 when I traveled to Trivendram in south from Gorakhpur. It was a long and tiring journey that also gave me a story to write for my paper at the time. More than anything else, that particular journey provided me an important glimpse of the wonder that the Indian railway network is. Continue reading

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.

The Great Indian Railway Bazaar

This article first appeared on Saturday’s (11 July 2009) Kathmandu Post

By Dinesh Wagle

The moment of shock came soon after I was awakened. At the time of leaving Kanya Kumari, the southern tip of India where land ends and water begins, on a cloudy day last week, the train was virtually empty as it originated from there. So my travel mates and I thought the whole thing belonged to us. We started wandering around, one compartment after another, looking for the best seat available. The man who issued the ticket at the Kanyakumari counter had told us that we could seat ourselves anywhere in the Sleeper Class as we had unnumbered seats reserved for us.

After three hours of journey (six more to go) and eating biryani in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, I climbed up to the upper berth to be awakened midway. The travel ticket inspector (popularly called TT) was checking the tickets and we realized that we were not in the ‘right’ seat. Other passengers had by then come to claim their reserved seats. One of my travel mates was already trapped between the passengers who were claiming the seat with valid tickets.

We quickly moved away only to be told by the TT that we could go and take any seats in compartment numbers 10, 11 or 12. There, we were like new refugees with no seat to sit, not even a proper place to stand. Finally we managed to jump up to three upper berths of a compartment. Phew!

Indian trains are a diverse society on the move that speaks several languages that are not understood by all people traveling in the same compartment of a train which might appear as a crawling, huge reptile if seen from a hot air balloon. This society eats food that is vastly different from that available in one station to the next. On my first journey on the Indian railways last October that lasted for three straight days and two nights I found myself interpreting on the third day to an Indian yatri what the railway staff, another Indian, was saying. The Tamil passenger who spoke his mother tongue Tamil and English but didn’t understand Hindi wanted to order some food and the Hindi-speaking Railway attendant from north India didn’t understand English or Tamil. The service of a Nepali came handy and the Tamil heartily thanked me for breaking the language barrier.

Writers had aptly described, I felt after traveling on Indian trains, Indian Railways as the lifeline of India that is like a traveling theater festival that stages contrasting dramas every hour or so with even more and diverse characters who have their own unique story to tell via their different body languages and other forms of communication. A friend of mine from Jharkhand didn’t believe me when I recently told her that there are no trains in Nepal (apart from a relic that runs between Janakpur-Jayanagar (India)) covering only a few kilometers on the Nepali side. She replied: “I can’t imagine a life without trains. How do you live without them yar?”

Unlike America or Europe, India will cease to exist if its railway system that carries a sea of humanity everyday becomes dysfunctional. My feeling is that effectively disrupting and completely damaging the Indian railway network will have the same impact that the fall of a nuclear bomb in Delhi or Madras might create.

I experienced a “wow” moment last week when I entered a crowded general compartment of a train that was going to Madhurai, Tamilnadu via Alleppey, Kerala. That 11-hour journey turned out to be partly adventurous, partly torturous. The train arrived on time in Alleppey, famous for backwater boating, but with all general dibbas filled to their capacity and far beyond. It was impossible to board the train from the last compartment (general dibbas are either at the front or the rear end of the train and one need not reserve a seat to travel in those). Then we ran towards the front one. We reached the door only to see a massive crowd inside. It was a do or die situation because missing the train meant you would be stranded for the whole night there. I jumped over a man’s leg and forced myself inside like a hammer. It worked. I paved a small but crucial way for my travel mates. Once inside the dibba, the struggle to find place for our legs began.

There were all sorts of people. A couple with their infant child quietly sleeping in the seat. Migrant workers heading to Trivandrum. Families getting back home apparently after not getting a sleeper class ticket. It was a collage of people of many colors, backgrounds, purposes and destinations. Most of them got off at Trivandrum from where we got seats to sit. It was indeed a huge relief to our knees as we were badly feeling them.

Even though I lived so near to India and grew up hearing so many things about its cultural, social and political aspects, it was a kind of shock to me when I saw an Indian railway platform last October in Gorakhpur. Thousands of people were simply lying down, just like that, on the concrete floor inside the platform and outside, below the open sky. I had never seen such a scene before. They were waiting for the next train to come. Apart from the sea the only thing I missed about India after returning to Nepal were the trains. Railways are, I feel, the best thing to have happened to India under the British raj. From the toy train of Darjeeling to the faster one like Rajdhani Express, the trains awed me.

The way people travel in them, the chaotic, pathetic, and at the same time entertaining and lively atmosphere inside a general dibba, the manner in which the passengers eat food inside, fill in their bottles from drinking water from public taps at the platforms so hurriedly fearing that the train might leave them behind, the way they talk with each other and with fellow (and strangers) passengers, behave, even sleep and freshen themselves, and the way sellers literally somersault to penetrate the crowd inside the dibba to sell eatables to the passengers. It’s all amazing! A real cultural shock that is not comparable even to the one that I got in a Washington DC strip bar a few years ago.

Then there is Delhi Metro, another form of rail transportation in the city of Delhi, the multi-billion dollar project that is still in the making which is arguably better than what they have in DC and New York. Traveling in the Metro makes me believe, even though the Delhi metro is not a piece of Indian innovation, what Thomas Friedman argues in his book The World Is Flat in the context of competitive advantage that India has in engineering and technical education thanks to the famed IITs: that the days of America in terms of innovation are going to be over soon. Of course, it will be a long time before we see that happen in real life.

This article first appeared on Saturday’s (11 July 2009) Kathmandu Post

Marina, Chennai

The Video

July 8: The train journey from Kodaikanal Road (three hours bus ride from the Kodaikanal Hills) to Chennai was excellent. They provided us the bed sheet and pillow for Rs 15 in the rail and that made the 8-hour journey ‘very’ comfortable, my neck tells me.

I stayed awake till 12 am typing one of these entries. When I woke up, we were already in Chennai Egmore (railway station). I wanted to sleep more! But the Marina was waiting for me. The beach that is. So we went directly to the beach that is not very far from the station and felt the coolness of the ‘Bay of Bengal’ water. The beach was dirty even in the early hour when very few vending stalls were open for business. Things including pieces of glasses were scattered all over the sand. But that didn’t stop us from playing with water and waves and taking loads of pictures. Continue reading

To Madhurai, From Alleppey in a General Dibba

Most of the pics were taken by, who else, Ishwari

July 5/6: Wow the real and full fledged feeling of the general dibba (compartment) in the Indian rail was experienced in this 11 hour partly adventurous, partly torturous journey. The train arrived at the dot but with all general dibbas filled to their capacity and far beyond. It was impossible to board the train from the last compartment (general dibbas are either at the front or the rear end of the train). Then we ran towards the front one. To make things worse, it was pouring and the general dibba was far from the shade. We reached the door only to see a massive crowd inside. No place to put a leg. It was a do or die situation. I jumped over a man’s leg and forced myself inside like a hammer. It worked. I paved a small but crucial way for my travel mates. Continue reading

Kerala Express: Day Two (Music n Booze)

[Some of the photos posted below are from Day 3]

My last trip to Kanyakumari, Rameshworam, Goa journey. And the first Indian Rail and beach visit. I’ll put the rest of the photos of that trip-October 2008- soon and some of the snaps are strikingly similar.

It’s a new day.

The wind that blows in to the train compartment from the door is pretty strong when the train is moving fast

The following are my Tweets that pretty much sum up the day:

1. Now charging the iPhone in a ‘Static Inverter For Mobile/Laptop Charging Point’ near the Latrine in the compartment. Good view frm da doors!

NOTE: That was early in the morning and there was a queue of three folks who wanted to charge their cell phones. I had to wait for about 1 hour to get my turn. Somehow the iPhone started showing the fully charged signal within 10 mins and when it was plugged out, would show the real power (which was understandably not fully charged). After a few minutes of playing with the cables, it worked. Soon, the there came other ppl and one wanted to charge for ‘only 10 minutes, i have a business call.’ After resisting for abt 10 mins, i gave up. Continue reading

Kerala Express. Midnight Thoughts

My last trip to Kanyakumari, Rameshworam, Goa journey. And the first Indian Rail and beach visit. I’ll put the rest of the photos of that trip-October 2008- soon and some of the snaps are strikingly similar.

As seen from inside a moving train. That’s my hand

It’s 1:7 am, and as it happens with me most of the nights, I am awake. It’s not because of insomnia though. I am tapping this entry from the upper berth of the train Kerala Express that must be running somewhere in Madhya Pradesh right now. After having dinner at around 8 pm, I had slept at 9. When I woke up at 12 midnight, I thought it was already morning. I was thinking too much. Continue reading

A Trip to Taj Mahal (Part I- Indian Railways)

A trip to Taj Mahal

What? A trip to Taj Mahal, Agra.
Saturday, June 13

How? I was lying on my back on the ground of Lodhi Garden Friday evening hoping to count a few dozens stars. Then this idea of going to Taj Mahal struck me. (Pics from last month at LG: One, Two, Three.) I had gone there with Satish. He started lecture about where can trains can take me in India. He also tried to convince me against driving to places like Mathura or Agra (as opposed to train journeys) arguing that I was still not “acclimatized” with Indian roads and traffic system. It was already 8 PM and was decided on that auspicious hour that we leave for Agra in less than 10 hours. I woke up even before the alarm clock that was set for 5 am performed its duty. I think that was the earliest in years. My usual wake up time is around 9 am while 7 am or 8 am are generally early hours for me to get out of bed. I woke up, took shower, put new clothes and was ready for the day. Then I called Satish only to hear from his mother that he has gone back to sleeping after he was woken up at 4 am. I was determined to make the trip happen. So I moved out of home, towards the nearby Nizamuddin railway station to catch a train to Tajmahal, Agra. The Taj Express was scheduled to leave the station at 7:15 am. Continue reading

Symbol of Progress [Metro Rail of New Delhi]

Dinesh Wagle
Walge Street Journal
[This article originally appeared on today’s Kathmandu Post. Nepali version appeared in today’s Kantipur. Click here to read as it appeared on the page of Kathmandu Post and click here to see as it appeared on Kantipur page.]

Metro rail of new delhi
Inside the Metro rail of New Delhi. Pic by DW

Two reasons prompted me to take a ride on New Delhi’s Metro train this month. First, it was one of the easiest means of transportation from Dwarka to Central Secretariat from where I could take a bus to Jangpura Extension where I live. Second, I wanted to see the famed Metro that has been widely described as one of the world’s best city transportation facilities. No doubt, the coolest train system of Delhi is also one of the top tourist attractions in the Indian capital. While travelling about 30 kilometres of distance I not only enjoyed the aura of the fancy compartments but also got to see the city from the height of a three-storey building. The elevated train track runs over the road where ever growing number of vehicles fight for the road space and get stuck in red signals. Up in the air-conditioned metro compartments passengers don’t face traffic jams. Instead they are treated with a good view of the cityscape. Continue reading

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