Kurla Terminus to Salem Jn: summer of 1995
by Hariharan Subrahmanyan
I had started off writing a few trip reports on memorable metre gauge journeys. In this trip report I would like to write about a rather unpleasant journey on the Nethravathi Express between Kurla Terminus and Salem.
I had started working in Mumbai in 1995 and got the urge to visit Madurai to see my parents. Did not have much vacation having just started a job. So I ventured to make a weekend trip to Madurai(yes really !!) and planning to return on Wednesday morning to Bombay. Here is the recollection from that trip.
Mumbai residents know what an ordeal it can be to get tickets on any train during the summer season. I have heard stories people staying overnight in the Churchgate or VT station to get their turn as soon as the counters opened. Also I believe that there exists a system of "rain checks" to get priority in the line the next day.
Anyway I had chosen Nethravathi for the following reasons:
- It had a late evening-departure - 8:25 pm out of Kurla Terminus I think,That means I can leave on Friday evening after working a full day
- I can connect to Bangalore Madurai (6531/2??) in Salem
- I can still reach Madurai in the morning on the second day
Kurla Terminus is inconvenient to say the least. I vaguely remember packing my stuff and taking it to work. Office was in Goregaon West,I took the suburban train on the western line . I dont remember where i got off but I took an auto from there to get to Kurla Terminus.
I really hope that Kurla Terminus has improved over the years. It used to be shabby to say the least with really no redeeming features. Most the trains there were the low priority trains bound for UP/Bihar that used to run chronically late . Late running of 12-18 hours were not uncommon. Our train pulled out in time. I was in Sleeper class and slept lightly. I think we reached somewhere near Solapur in the morning. I envied the folks who sleep well after day break while I had gotten up just after 6 am and waiting for the train to stop at some station to get some coffee.Most travellers would know that the coffee/tea in these trains is just coloured hot water. I was just quietly reading a novel I keep ready for these long train journeys. Every 2 hours or so I used to walk out to be in the near the door to smoke those wonderful GoldFlake Kings cigarettes. The day was marked by random unreserved passengers getting into sleeper coaches and taking their rightful(!!!) place requesting the already tired passengers to make way for them.
This is something -the bullying of reserved passengers especially in second class sleepers- that happens all the time in these trains . This is not so rampant in Southern Railway.
You just grit your teeth and see that phase through.I guess this unauthorised intrusions is a way of life in these trains in Andhra and Karnataka sections on this route.
We passed Raichur where I could see the silos of the thermal plant , then Mantralayam Road the ITC Agrotech factory(since sold off by ITC AgroTech) adjacent to the station was a significant landmark. I think by midday the next day we had reached Guntakal.
From there it was a leisurely run passing Dharmavaram and Hindupur (NT Ramarao's constituency) and it was almost 9 pm when we reached Krishnarajapuram. At that point I think we were nearly 2 hours late.
The train continued onward towards Salem and from this point my troubles started.I was exhausted from the heat and I had stripped down to my undershirt and a faded lungi because of the heat. Just after 11 pm I had dozed off and did not realise that we had passed Salem. I woke up just after Salem and I located the TTE relaxing near the door.
I explained to him that I had overslept and did not leave the train in Salem.
I was naïve I guess. I could simply have kept quiet and got off the next stop.
The TTE was rather upset and spoke some harsh words. He said something about unauthorised travel in a reserved compartment. He also explained that he had made two rounds just before Salem and in the station asking passengers to detrain and I was sound asleep out of sheer exhaustion.
I did not cut a very impressive figure either in my lungi and undershirt and my weary state. I tried to explain but TTE would have none of it. He charged me a penalty plus a sleeper berth charges and I must have been the only guy in IR who paid Rs.138 for a journey on II Sleeper between Salem and Erode.
Eventually we arrived in Erode and I think by this time I had missed the Bangalore-Madurai express and ended up taking a bus upto Madurai.
PS : I believe the Nethravathi now runs on the Konkan Railway. On my next trip to India I hope to be able to travel on the Konkan.