Indian Railways Reports
Travel experience in Three tier sleeper
I reach Cantonment station half an hour early, since I have given too much allowance for the traffic chaos in Bangalore. The chart near the station Master’s office shows where in the platform my S6 â€“ three-tier compartment is likely to arrive. As I walk towards the coach position, I have to avoid people with lots of luggage waiting for trains expected to arrive. All benches are occupied with some passengers putting their luggage also on the benches denying seats to others. There is a group of musicians with their instruments waiting for Chennai train, with pan chewing and spitting on the track. There is one large family talking loudly and laughing as if there is no tomorrow, with one of the youth trying to make young girls giggle with nonsensical jokes. One woman police has just caught three middle-aged, very recently confident looking men for smoking on the platform, slapping Rs 100 fine on each. They look sheepish now with the watching crowd enjoying the show. They have changed from princes to beggars, appealing to the police. Suddenly you hear Hi’s and Long â€“Time- No- See conversations of friends who meet only once in 5 years in railway platforms, exchanging news. The train is announced. Nobody can hear the train number in the noise. As the train slips into the platform, all rush to see the board in the second compartment to find that it is not theirs. By the time they come back, the benches they sat are occupied by people, who look the other way now. There are two familiar stray dogs in the platform which bark and run along a short distance with every arriving train. Were they train drivers in their last janma? There is the lady with a child in the hand with lots of luggage rushing and pushing people in the opposite direction to reach her compartment. The travelling sales executive having wait listed ticket, with his I-know-my way -expression, rushes to the Ticket Examiner with Rs. 100 folded in his palm as bribe, to get a seat.
Luckily I find my compartment S6 in front of me. It is the smell from toilet that hit me first as I board the three tier sleeper in Kanyakumari Express. Invariably, as per Murphy’s law, the person with a maximum luggage has to get into the wrong end of the bogie. How is that every time, there is always two people with the same seat number of S6 and S7 fighting for the seat? We settle down and push all our baggage under the seat and look at co-passengers and give a smile. Vendors start their job shouting coffee/tea etc. Slowly I start talking to co-passengers. After half an hour, I realize it is a small world. TTE comes tagging along with at least two persons with their wait listed tickets in hand and a sullen, lost expression. TTE tells them, " please wait, let me finish checking!" As soon as checking is over, senior co-passenger announces all that he is tired and sleepy. It is only 8 P.M. We all get up and help him to put his middle berth in place and sit like Hunch back of Nottredame. By 8.30, our backs cannot take anymore. We get into our berths and try reading a book. By 9 P.m. old man requests someone to switch off the lights. I look at the ceiling close to my face in pale blue night lamp light.
Train cockroaches seems to know that it is party time with disco blue lights. Mind you they never grow big like our house roaches. They are a special breed growing to a maximum of only half an inch. I push two of them from the side panel, full of love symbols drawn with a ball-pen by a frustrated youth, who could not sleep. The train sways me to sleep.
There is always an important station at 2 A.M. The lights are put on, the number of the berth discussed in high decibels by TTE and the passenger, with screeching noise of the luggage being pushed in. The lights are off again. I am back in my blue world again. I have lost my sleep. The man who got in settles down very fast and starts snoring loudly in 5 minutes flat. I try to sleep dreaming of train with no cockroaches.
Material provided by K Jayaraman, Copyright © 2008.