Joys of Train travel in India

As a child, I was always fascinated by James Watt’s creation. Train travel is what I enjoyed during my visitation to my grand mother’s place during summer vacations..

Every one on the train has different reasons to travel by train.Everyone is travelling to different destinations and everyone has a story to tell. It is always a journey that we all enjoy than the destination or the means of travel! Who wants to miss the joys of Train travel in India?

It was our maiden train trip in North India. Embarking at New Delhi, destination Agra.
Train: New Delhi-Bhopal Shatabdi express.
Departure from New Delhi: 6.15 AM

We reached New Delhi railway station, Paharganj by 5.30 AM. For few, the gates of the railway station is their sleeping beds. Getting down from an old Maruti Omni on a cold December morning was a chilling experience considering winter cold of New Delhi. Local ‘coolies’ ( helpers ) approached us like houseflies swarming unprotected sweet meat. Fortunately the train was scheduled to depart from the first platform itself and hence we just exchanged some ‘pleasantries’ with the helpers. Not obliging their requests, we dragged our luggages towards the platform.

Train pulled up the platform after nearly 30 minutes and we briskly settled in our allotted spaces in an A/C chair car compartment. It was after a long time that that all of us were travelling in the train and first time in Shatabdi. Shatabdi it was. For an A/C chair car, we had a laptop charging point, well maintained interiors, legs space more than sufficient as compared to any other airlines! It was a 2 hour Journey to Agra which was at a distance of 195KM and the train would reach a top speed of 111 KM/hour. We were all excited.

Icing on the cake while travelling in Shatabdi is that you get quality vegetarian food. The price for the ticket you paid for includes all 3 meals and evening snacks. Another advantage of travelling by Train as compared to travelling on any ‘low cost airline’!  I waited for my morning chai.

Breakfast serving in shatabdi express india

Hira lal

It was Hira Lal, a charming young man who was on duty that day as carriage attendant. The very first encounter with him made my drowsiness fade away to oblivions. What a charming man with loads of enthusiasm and energy! That’s exactly what is needed if you are in service Industry. He seemed to be the happiest man in the world. Talking about happiness, it reminds us of one of our previous blog posts on meander.

Chai ( Tea ) and biscuits were served. We were also delighted to witness the one and only “Rail Bandhu” magazine – a magazine by the Indian Railways that concentrates on news, events or features concerning the railways. The magazine is well printed and presented to the passengers – a wealth of information of train travellers in India. Advertisements by tourism industry to boost their business was an eye catcher.

Rail Bandhu train magazine by Indian railways

Rail Bandhu

Cold winter morning, warm clothes to secure the body warmth, listening to rumbling wheels of the train, savoring hot chai and marie biscuits coupled with reading Rail Bandhu magazine was an experience in itself.

Enjoying Morning Tea shatabdi express indian railways

Enjoying Our Morning Chai

Agreed that everything will not be hunky-dory for people travelling in general compartments where in we see a lot of action of a different kind, I feel Indian Railways has undergone a seachange over the years and the their service and customer delight is much better than any other low cost airline in India – I re-iterate and reckon. After this experience, I feel that, as a traveller, if you do not have time constraints, in India, train travel is the best to reach different parts of the country to live and experience India at its best.

Travellers enjoying their train travel – while some are immersed in reading news papers to keep abreast of what’s happening around the country, others are more relaxed watching Hollywood flick on their laptops as early as 6.00 AM.

Joys of train travel - passengers, India

Joys of train travel

Train carriage attendant, Hira lal, NewDelhi Bhopal Shatabdi express

Hira lal’s relentless service

Hiralal never got out of my mind. Soon he was back with a stack of packaged food. Hot breakfast was served. Hira lal’s dedication and passion towards his work was noticeable through his deeds. How many government servants in India work with this degree of honesty? I asked myself.

It was a sumptuous breakfast: brown bread, butter and jam, a tetra pack of mango juice and vegetable cutlet were served. Fork and spoons looked clean, the presentation on red tray looked hygenic and inviting for the hungry souls! A flier that contained entire menu for the day gave a good preview of what is in for evening snacks, lunch and dinner for people travelling long distances to Bhopal.

Vegetarian Food on Shatabdi Express New Delhi to Bhopal

Food on Shatabdi Express

By the time we were done with the breakfast, we had reached Mathura Railway station. Being birth place of Lord Krishna, we all looked through the window to get a glimpse of Keshav dev temple as the train departed the station. With all these small joys, the next time we travel in India, we were sure we will enjoy shatabdi travel. We were just 50 KM from our final destination – Agra.

I quickly made couple of visits to pantry to talk to Hira lal and his associates to have better insights into his life and how he manages between frequent travels and personal life. He was all the while similing and never complained about his job. If you love your job, you will never show the sense of tiredness in your deeds. His energy filled service adorned by a smile to every traveler he met on the train is indeed commendable.

As we approached Agra, I thanked Hira lal and wished him better prospects for his future. Finally we bid adieu to him at Agra. After that we had a 10 day whirl wind trip to Rajasthan but Hira lal and his sense of service remained with us forever. Every time we witnessed a way of service either at the hotel or elsewhere, he was coming back to us in all the conversations that we had together as a family. The memories of him is still vivid and unforgettable.

I have many times heard of many bad experiences from my friends and family about pain and perils of train travel especially in North India. May be it is true in other class of trains but it was a short and memorable one for us. Without which this post wouldn’t have existed. Thanks to Hira lal for obliging to make some of the images while he worked. Travel Photography in India is always enchanting.

Hats off Indian Railways and we will be back on board to enjoy your services in other parts of the country very soon!

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