Sunday, August 12, 2012

Indian Railway - Garib Rath Express

The cool confines of the vestibule looks inviting as I climb onto the rail with reservation status in RAC. Garib Rath which means Chariot of the poor is a long distance rail that begins from Jabalpur City Station in Madhya Pradesh. The destination station is Mumbai, the commercial capital of India. The train stops at many stations on its journey towards Mumbai at Arabian Sea. 

Garib Rath belongs to the express category that means fewer stoppage or is it? At the station there is as much chaos as it is inside. Passengers in Hurry as always..there is much time, I struggle to reach my seat, put my bag under it - in a constricted space and relax. The commotion continues, a journey that only offers comfort of  temperature control and nothing else. Five people to leave one passenger.   

The coaches are nice and clean and the toilets are hygienic. This by all means is a bounty. Indian rails contain the dirtiest toilets as at other public places. But there is a continuous effort from the department to maintain all things good. The problem lies in the sheer number of travelers.  

The windows are large enough and I love to watch my India. Beautiful India! The familiar landscape passes by, I travel often on this route. But soon darkness takes over and I am confined to the inner reality of the coach. The stark reality of inner chaos far apart for the magical scape outside. 

The rail offers cheaper fare than most of the temperature controlled accommodations. It offers a chance to those not lucky enough to travel in AC. The cool comfort makes them extra chirpy and restless the commotion goes on well past sleeping hours. This is a characteristic of many of the travelers in India minus the upper class. Noise, spicy food, large number of baggage, slippers, rugs, plastic bags, mineral water all get cramped in a minimalist compartment. The situation is worsened by continuous to and fro of vendors selling tea, snacks and, "Very Tasty Quality Food Sir! Garama Garm". The food, if you have no other source is all but palatable.         

In the cramped confinement, the World becomes oblivious and you feel like traveling in a spacecraft through the mysterious celestial space. But there is no vacuum here, it is literally a bazaar on the move. Perhaps we Indians are most carefree travelers. In this confinement, I experience India from close. The emergence of the clutter and chaos. Simply too many people! But within this extreme lies an amazing colorful tapestry, an admixture of diverse profiles that never cease to surprise me.

Travelers chomp all around..bananas, bhajiyas, samosa, chips Haldiram, the kids are very noisy and restless. As dinner time arrives people settle down for the big chomp. Family and friends gather around oblivious of the terribly constricted space. The passage is completely blocked by the time boxes open and pungent aroma of spices fill the whole vestibule. The aroma lingers for hours in the AC compartment. The chomp is noisy and a fine example of gluttony...a train ride creates insatiable hunger, discomfort or not. By the time the chomp is over it is time to sleep or is it? The kids continue with their antics energized by the loads of food...they become more troublesome. The women have truck load of chatting to do. They are apologetic, this is a precious instance of complete freedom for them. I smile and mean to say carry on. The bed rolls begin to roll out as time proceeds, the event is as noisy with frantic discussion of who will sleep where?

The Ticket Checker has not yet arrived, sitting with my lap top I try to ignore the milieu. I frequently check my Current Pnr status in hope of getting a birth to sleep. I am lucky now, and I have a confirmed birth in the next coach. My neighbors are upper class English speaking Indians. Tight lipped, high society snobs by fate dipped into Garib Rath. The ambiance is dull, silent and devoid of life...the silence is the only welcoming note.   

I take out my dinner, carefully wrapped in a foil, it is...spicy...pungent...aromatic..Blah! blah!. It is mind bogglingly tasty, I have made it myself. Heavy aroma lingers in the air as I sit crossed legged chomping freshly made aloo ke sabji, oily partha, achar, and papad. Lots of nasty eyebrows are raised but I am at work, who cares. Aren't we all Indians. Live Life King Size!