The return trip was extremely eventful to say the least.

Carrying a WL (wait list) ticket, reached the station early! Having been ordered to carry a lot a of stuff back…..had two large bags along. Negotiating with the coolie was smooth (probably because I agreed to his demands).

Went to the center to check on the ticket confirmation, since the lists were not visible anywhere. Pushing through the crowd, managed to ask, nay shout my query in gujarati, promptly came the reply in English (think this is the NRI hangover), handed over the printout & was informed C1- 64.

With coolie, bags in tow walked to the end of the station. The train pulled in right on time….and our man rushed in with the two bags. A thought at the back of my mind resurged, so looked for the list on the door, but of course there was none! The pantry attendants cheerfully told me that the lists were on the other side, since at Ahmadabad the platform was on the other side….No matter that at Baroda & all subsequent stations it was a different side.

Anyway, looked for seat 64 where a gentleman cheerfully informed me that this was his seat, but no problem, TT would sort it out. Paid off the coolie, train chugged out & I was outside in the corridor, with the attendants, who informed that the Baroda quota had all come on board & there were no seats.

So started my search, to find the TE (ticket examiner) first, then my seat so that I could have the promised luxurious ride in the train.

Passing through 3-4 compartments, located him, who looked at me, in amazement that I had managed to find him; that I did not have a seat; & finally that I expected him to help me, whilst he was busy trying to adjust people who had climbed on with wait listed tickets.

After alternate requests, threats, pleadings, he checked & informed me that C1-C7 my name did not feature. As advised by my friends the pantry attendants, another round of requests, threats, pleading followed when he spoke on the mobile phone (wonders of invention finally) to his colleague & confirmed that my seat was CE1-64. Besides this he gleefully explained that this was a common mistake everyday, CE meaning Chair Executive, which are the additional coaches attached for wait listed passengers. He also said, that NRI’s (again that word) with big bags normally have to carry it thru C1 to C13 before CE 1 comes. By now he was joined by two of his colleagues, besides my pantry friends & a couple of well wishers; all pouring their two bits on how I should reach my seat. Upon being asked why did the railways not logically name it C 14 to make life simpler, they had no answer except guiding me that the Ahmadabad/Western Region Office would be able to answer.

It was finally decided that Bharuch the next station, was where I would get down & transverse the entire length of the train quickly to reach CE 1. Came the station, just as the train was slowing down, I was informed: it stopped for 2-3 minutes, no coolies would be available. Talk about communication!!!!!

Taking the help of my pantry attendant friends – one of them started running with one bag. Luckily saw a stray coolie, who wanted to negotiate!!!!! Just pushed him, with all the TE & other Pantry Attendants on the station for a smoke, cheering me on…..we ran (sorry dragged our sorry selves) BUT my recent weight loss assisted & finally reached C 11 when the train started moving…..Throwing the bags & myself upstairs, was greeted by smiling faces enquiring, Saab CE 1 mein seat hai kya??

A good kindly soul helped me reach CE 1 (Mt. Everest) & collapse in my seat. Trying hard to gain my breath, the well wisher on the seat next to me, said, why did you run? You should have come from within the train, it may have taken longer; his neighbor said Nope, this is a better way. Letting the argument wash over me, along with the cold Air Conditioning, closed my eyes for a while.

Sir!, Sir! Pantry came up with the snack, that I had missed due to coming late. Returning the food tray & taking only the tea, had them looking at me in astonishment?

Taking a look around, noticed that the coach was new, clean, AC functioning perfectly & the newly installed TV screens TVshowing re runs of old TV sitcomsTV1 . But the outside where the pantry is located was a different matter altogether.Pantry Pantry 1

Surat came & went, out came the dinner trays. Again the look of astonishment at my refusal, trying to convince me that it was clean etc. etc.

With the arrival of Vapi, out came the mobile phones & everybody started discussing – business (dang the economy); coordinating pickup at borivali station or checking what was for dinner at home.

The attendants brought the Finale – vanilla ice cream being handed out – followed by the 2nd person with Saunf & some money already laid out to show that Tips were to be put there.

With Bhyander flashing past, the Q to get baggage near the exit began……The mobile phones ringing as if there’s no tomorrow……At last Borivali……Munna; mamma; beta……all shouts before the descent began.

Spending 7 hours travelling from Ahmadabad to Borivali, everyone is shoving one another to reach home early by 10 minutes.

Watching the scene, collared a coolie & started the climb to come out on the east side……when finally my phone rings & my wife tells me…..they are still stuck at Kandivali & would take 5-10 minutes (as I have mentioned elsewhere she is over enthusiastic) Being a realist & pragmatic, I resigned my self to a wait of 1 hour. During the time I waited, was approached by practically all the Auto & Taxi drivers willing to take me to bhayendar, mulund, thane etc. Finally I could see the car & getting in, ruminated over the journey.

1 Why does Railways want to make life difficult, by wanting to ape the airlines as the case was for C1 & CE1 – similar to Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport which is both domestic & international.
2 Why are there no volume buttons for the TV?
3 Why are the TV’s switched off 45 minutes before arrival of borivali?
4 Is the menu same (according to frequent travelers Yes)since 2001 (my last travel) or they have a CRM in place that ensured it.
5 With the expense of new coaches, why not build in an intercom system into every coach?

6 Can understand the old coaches, but why is there no space in new coaches for pantry & everything is spread out near the toilets?