A trip report, very special to me and my wife....

2004-05-11

by Jimmy Jose

Most of us have memories of those special train journeys that we love not to forget and the memories of which linger around, occupying that special place in our hearts. Here is one such journey that holds this special place, in my heart as well as my wife Sumi's. The reason for this is the first train journey we undertook after our marriage. We had a lot of problems and difficulties in the journey too.

We tied the wedlock on 11 February 2001. The first journey together was a pilgrimage to Velankanni shrine. Less than a month after our marriage, my friend was getting married at Chennai and I had to attend the function. Chennai was not new both of us - we both had done our college studies there. I had left Chennai in 1997 and my wife, in 2000. Our marriage was a perfect example of Indian arranged marriage. We had not met before the first official meeting arranged by our parents. The first time we traveled together in a car, or had a dinner together was after our marriage.

Our plan was like this: Day 1 (Friday): leave for Chennai by 6042 Alleppey Chennai exp. Day 2 (Saturday): visit shopping centers like Spencer Plaza, Alsa Mall etc, and go to Egmore Station to spot the newly introduced WDP 2 locos, go for disco in the evening at HFO, a popular discotheque those days. Day 3 (Sunday): meet friends and relatives, do a bit of shopping, go for the wedding in the evening. Day 4 (Monday): Go to the colleges we studied, and return back to Cochin in the 6619 (now 2624) Trivandrum Mail. Since Alleppey Express had, and still continue to have a non A/C First Class, we definitely booked a coupe. Both Alleppey Express and Trivandrum mail were familiar to both of us. So we were least worried about the travel.

My wife prepared and packed dinner for us. This was the first time I dined on pre packed dinner from home on train. I always used to buy biriyani from Palghat station while traveling on Alleppey Express. My mother, accompanied by my father's driver dropped us at the station.

I was unable to find our name in the booking chart. So, had a look at my ticket. Like an electric shock, I read that the person at the reservation counter had made a mistake in entering the date. Instead of booking for 5th, he had booked for 6th. I did not verify the ticket at the counter. So, finally I came face to face with the truth at the Railway Station.

Startled and shocked, I ran to the Ticket Checker of the First Class to see whether he can help us. This person, Mr. Mohammed stationed at Palghat was one of the nicest TTE I have ever come across my life. He asked us to get into the AC sleeper compartment and occupy any two vacan't seats. As instructed by him, we sent our driver to get new unreserved tickets. Since we reached about 15 minutes prior to departure, we had ample time to get a new ticket.

Lessons to all train travelersx: 1. Check the correctness of your ticket at the reservation counter. 2. Arrive sufficiently in advance at the railway station.

So, we both occupied two vacan't seats. In the meantime, TTE finished his duties and finally came to us. He said that there were some vacan't seats in the AC sleeper. He had also talked with people occupying a FC coupe and they were willing to move to AC sleeper. We readily agreed and shifted our luggage to the FC coupe. We also helped the persons in the coupe to move the luggage to AC sleeper. Mr. Mohammed ensured that we are felling good before restarting his duty. We exchanged our addresses and had coffee and vada together. Before leaving at Palghat, he once again visited us. I met him again in Alleppey exp last year.

In those days, there used to be a composite FC cum sleeper coach on 6042. Our coupe was on this coach. We had two smaller windows; the usual FC coupe has a large window. Our loco was a WAM 4. Even today, 6042 gets an Arakkonam WAM 4 regularly. Our coach was the second from Engine. This meant that we could hear the humming of the loco very clearly, the first time my wife noticed that an electric loco hums while a diesel loco chugs! The excitement continued throughout the journey, well into the night and the next day morning.

There was a delay en route near Kalamassery station due to a tanker rake slipping off the rail. The double line had to be restricted to single line operation. So, we reached Trichur an hour late at 7.00 pm. All the tension and commotion had left me sweating. Toilets in the First Class compartments have a shower. The March sun had left the water boiling and I took bath in hot water! Bed rolls were supplied by the attendant upon payment of Rs. 25/- per roll. We reached Palghat again an hour late at 9.00 pm. We soon had our dinner. My wife made up the bed, something I have never done in my life.

After the Palghat ghats, our train started picking up speed to make up for the delay. After Podanur, we were doing 110 - 120 kmph. All the hurry and commotion made us sleepy. But the excitement of traveling together overwhelmed our sleep as our WAM 4 hauled train leaped through the darkness.

The last station I remember was Erode after that both of us fell asleep. We woke up hearing the familiar `Kaffeee" barking by the Coffee vendors at Arakkonam. This coffee is one part of normal coffee diluted with at least five parts of water. But it helps one get over the sleep.

We reached Chennai the next morning at 6.15 am. Our train had made up for the one and half hour delay during the night. My dad's friend's driver was at the station to receive us. We had our hotel reservation at Quality Inn Aruna at Sterling Road. The main reason we booked here was that we loved to go to the "HFO" discotheque at the hotel, something not available in Cochin.

As planned, the first thing we did was to go to Egmore station to spot the WDP 2 locos. There were a few there. Kanniyakumari exp had just pulled into the platform behind one. All were in the good old Diesel Shakti livery.

Later, we did a bit of shopping and in the evening, had a good time at HFO discotheque.

The next day morning, my sister rang up from Bangalore and said that she needs an urgent help from me to complete her MD post graduation Gynecology thesis. So, we had to leave for Bangalore on Monday evening or Tuesday Morning. Accordingly, we cancelled the tickets to Cochin and rebooked on the newly extended Cnennai - Mysore 6222 Cauvery Express to Bangalore. We could not get reservation in the AC coaches but our ticket were confirmed in the Sleeper class.

All other programs at Chennai went on as usual. The marriage was at Hotel Hilton, St. Thomas Mount. Though it was a wet party, I stayed dry since I did not want to irritate my wife. We did our shopping at Nalli, Kumaran etc, buying sarees, churidars. We also visited our relatives, friends and the collages we studied.

On day 3 night, we boarded the Cauvery Express. Our seats were the last seats on the train, S 11 (last coach), 71 and 72 (last berths), which were side upper and side lower. I am 6' 2'' and my wife is 5' 8''. So, you can imagine how difficult it would have been for us to cramp into these 5' 5" berths.

As soon as we boarded the train, my wife fell asleep, even before the train moved. I was waiting outside at the platform where I saw one of the most gruesome sight in my life. Tamil Nadu express was just pulling off from Pf. No. 1 when a decent lady, in her middle thirties came running towards the train with a travel bag, she was to travel in the train. Her relatives who were not traveling with her ran behind, trying to catch up. She tried to jump into the last compartment of the running train but slipped and fell down into the rails, obviously trapped between the wheels and the rail. Her terrible cry meant something was wrong. Everyone rushed to her to find that the train had run over one of her legs. The severed leg lie separated from her and she was covered in blood. The train did not stop but she was rushed by the onlookers and railway men to some hospital. I do not know what happened after that, but for sure, she would remain a handicapped for life.

All the cry and sounds woke up my wife and made her come in search of me. The next problem: we had the nastiest of neighbors ever imaginable. Four drunk men in inebriated state. They started staring wildly and passing comments about my wife. I definitely would have reacted, but here, I tried to keep quiet, since these guys were drunk and looked like street thugs. Later, I complained to the TT and requested for a change of seat. This TTE was not Mr. Mohammed I mentioned earlier and plainly refused. He did not even asked the drunkards to keep quiet. The two other men with us soon asked them to keep quiet, switch off lights and sleep. The drunk men soon fell asleep, but I remained awake, alert on the lower berth. I do like to gaze out at night, but this gaze was different from the usual ones. My wife, slept on upper berth under my security! I did not sleep a wink that night, leaving me tired the next whole day.

Cauvery Express is used as a day train from Bangalore to Mysore by daily commuters. There are several sectional coaches. People started rushing into the through coaches to Mysore from places as far as Malur. Our coach was meant for just Bangalore and not Mysore. We reached half past six at Can'tonment Station, took an Auto to my sisters house.

I helped my sister complete her thesis. I also visited several friends and relatives. Took my wife to the Water Theme Park near Electronic City etc.

We left Bangalore by Island Express, boarding from Can'tonment again. This too, in second A/C. Here we had a very nice company, a couple from Bangalore going on Holiday to Kerala.

Nothing notable happened on this trip. We reached Ernakulam safely and ahead of the scheduled time.

All the above happened three years ago. Now, we have reached parenthood and have a son, Jossu. We always talk of this trip, whenever we travel by train.

Material provided by Jimmy Jose, Copyright © 2004.
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