Indian trains are the life lines of many people in the country. It is one of the simple ways for travelling long distances. It provides lots of opportunities to travel within states and reach your destination. The population of India is more than the availability of trains. But we have accepted the overcrowded trains with open arms, just as we have got accustomed to its deteriorating condition and sorry state.
Firstly when anyone books the ticket online, there are 99.99% chances that it will be a waiting list. One has to mandatorily wait for the Tatkal system to open up in the morning. Then only you can book the ticket successfully. While sitting inside the trains in sleeper class, one has to be as alert as a watch dog for their luggage. It has become a tradition to put a steel chain around all the luggage bags to keep it safe and bounded together. Then no one can steal them away easily. Normally a lower berth meant for three people can be occupied by a fourth passenger. A request of Can-I-sit-for-two-minutes can stretch for hours. Passengers without tickets stand comfortably wherever they get a chance, mostly around toilets and compartment doors.
Any late arrival or departure is very common nowadays. Nobody raises an eyebrow on that. Is the train late? No problem, sit on the station and wait. We have gotten used to that. Another notable feature is the pantry food. It does not need any introduction, does it? We are all familiar with the pantry man selling cutlets, biryani, curds, bread omelets and other tightly wrapped food items. But the conditions in which these foods are cooked have been well exposed by the electronic media in the past. The pathetic and filthy state of the pantry is enough for a person to start seriously considering going on a strict fast while travelling in a train. That would be much healthier.
The windows are meant for getting fresh air and scenery view of the outside world. But they are mostly used by thieves to steal golden chains or mangalsutra of the ladies. If a handbag or a purse is also kept near an open window at night, it’s a guarantee that it will not be there in the morning. Passengers hardly sleep soundly at night fearing for the safety of their luggage. In this matter, the AC coaches are better off. There the windows are permanently closed. There are no security guards or police in the trains. Not in every coaches any way. On any station, a thief can board the train and get off quickly after stealing inside. Who is there to stop him in the semi-darkness?
Once I travelled in Garibrath Express and met a few unusual companions-cockroaches! They were everywhere. The mere sight of them made ladies uncomfortable. Imagine if you are eating your lunch, sharing with your family, laughing together, enjoying the zooming past view outside the window and out pops a big cockroach from behind. They had made their permanent residences near the windows, below the berths and on the seats. I lost my appetite and made a mental note to never travel in that train again. Never ever!
Two-tier and three-tier AC coaches provide blankets that sometimes give off an awful smell. White towels have yellow patches on them. One day when I enquired the coach attendant about the filthy condition of my blanket, he replied helplessly that those are the bed rolls available. Fresh from the laundry, he added. Whenever I travel to my hometown, the train is always late so much that my relatives deliberately come late to receive me, knowing very well in advance by their experience that the train would be late. This has become a routine. The train is never going to be on schedule. That’s for sure. After all this is the Indian railways I am talking about. What else can I expect?
With the introduction of new railway budgets, promises are made to bring about a revolution in the government owned Indian Railways which is the fourth largest railway network in the world. Started in 1853, it has nearly 64,015 km of track and 6,090 stations. It is used by approximately 20 million passengers daily. The ticket prices have increased remarkably but sadly the facilities have remained the same. Poor management, lack of maintenance and accidents has affected the whole system.