It has been a hard two years, with not having stepped out of Mumbai, particularly to my yearly pilgrimage to Ambaji, the last being 2011, followed by Dad’s illness and the general atmosphere, which sort of just did not make one wish to go visit.
There had been a plan in January 2013 but had to be cancelled at the last minute due to family reasons. A lucky break of a weekend but which meant we could not take the car, thanks to the time actually delighted me and managed to book train tickets on IRCTC no less, maybe the second/third time I must have done. Bom-Amd by Duronto and return by Lok Shakti Express.
The rain gods had begun their dance, but luckily reached Bombay Central pretty quick. Sheer Nostalgia followed by Sorrow. The paint, paan stains, thrash cans, toilets were all the same. The roof was leaking at a couple of places and the so much touted “Food Court” was just Kailash Parbat. The only good thing was the train indicators and the semblance of Q for the WL/RAC passengers but that may also have been due to the Duronto (direct train Bom-Amd).
The shock of getting one lower berth was explained by my wife as not having “Ticked” the square which said, don’t issue tickets if no lower berth. The berths in two tier were just ‘Berths'; a bottle of water between two berths was handed over once the train took off. One side of the bogie had the usual Indian toilets with the other side having Western (recall One each for convenience earlier). The western were half way decent, with bum washer and doors that had working latches; whilst the Indian were pathetic, constantly wet all across, leaking water taps.
The train was perfect, reached on time, a bit of rain in Ahmedabad, climbed the stairway to come out – leaking roof, people using both sides of the staircases. Outside is still a chaos, though much controlled; however people still use the exit gate to enter – particular the two wheelers; very little signage.
The return journey on Sunday began with us reaching the station more than an hour early. There were no lighted signages near the station, the leakages more so since there was heavy rains. The AC of the train was switched on only when it was 9 pm the time for train to leave. Barring the lower berth issue; the berths were no better or worse than Duronto. At least the wash rooms were bit better. The train was running 45 minutes late from Ahmedabad but no announcements could be heard. Getting down at Andheri was a breeze, along walk and outside. Not arguing with the coolie and auto guy meant we were home in double quick time.
Overall a decent journey, maybe try the 1AC next time to see how much of an improvement it would have. However some observations:
1. Why would the Railways always have a problem with food courts? There is a lot of space &
people willing to pay good money for good food.
2. The 2TAC is always packed, why can there not be better bogies, berths, service?
3. The Railway stations are pathetic still, definitely better than a couple of years, however this is
restricted to platform nos 1 & 2, the rest are the same janta types.
4. Why can sponsorship not work for Railways?
5. Been more than a couple of decades, the Coolie, Auto, Taxi, Cops Nexus is still alive and
kicking. More organised if anything.
To be fair, Travellers are equally to be blamed about this. But then as is the wont, it is a never ending argument.