Kal Aaj Aur Kal - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
by Jitendra Mulky
Statutory warning: The following mail may confuse the reader due to oft repeated dates and numbers. Keep a calender handy when reading.
The words for Yesterday and Tomorrow are the same in most northern Indian languages, e.g. in Hindi, it is the same word Kal. This leads to quite an amusing (sometimes not so amusing) situation at times, when people may mistake one for the other and turn up for an appointment on the wrong date or some such similar goof up. Therefore, when someone says "Kal", it is always better to clarify whether he meant yesterday or tomorrow, or better still confirm by mentioning the date. I should have applied the same rule when traveling by IR.
The background to this is the severe havoc caused in early October by torrential rain and the subsequent flooding of vast areas of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh with loss of several lives, and damage worth crores of Rupees to property and crops. Indian Railways too suffered because of this devastation, with the main trunk routes between north and south being affected. Prominent amongst these damaged routes were the one passing through Raichur, connecting Mumbai and parts farther north with Chennai and Bangalore. Bridges over the Krishna river at Krishna and the Tungabhadra river at Manthralayam Road were damaged, causing the Railways to stop traffic over them, forcing some trains to be canceled and some to run on a diverted or longer route.
Our family makes an annual trip to Puttaparthi (station code SSPN) every year during Diwali. Accordingly I had booked tickets through IRCTC at the start of the 90 days advance booking period, for Udyan Express starting from CSTM on the 14th of October, for the 5 of us (my in-laws, my wife, son and me). When the floods affected the areas we were to pass through, I kept praying that 1) people living there would not suffer and 2) our trip on the 14th would go by without a hitch.
IRFCA member Raghavendra Rao left for Tiruchhirapalli (via Bangalore) on 9th October, and I received an SMS from him that his train 1013 (LTT - Coimbatore) was running on the diverted route via Pune - Miraj - Hubli - Hospet - Guntakal. I also found out that train services would run on the normal route from 15th October. Since we were supposed to leave on 14th, I was quite excited that I would be traveling on a new route for the first time. But this was before I realized that Udyan Express is a Bangalore division train of SWR, and the train which would arrive on 13th night at CSTM would leave on the 14th morning. Common sense told me that if the train is running on a diverted route, it would not get preference over the regular trains on that route, causing more delays than would be accounted for by the increase in distance only. So I tried calling 139 to find out the status of the incoming train of 13th night.
139 is a very good facility, but it has one major drawback - it gives the schedules of only trains scheduled at a particular station for that particular day. e.g. the 6530 Udyan which left SBC on 12th night would pass through stations between Dharmavaram (DMM) and CSTM on 13th. So if I dialed 139 on 13th, I would get information of the train which left SBC on 12th for stations from DMM to CSTM, and information about the train which left on 13th from SBC for stations from SBC to SSPN. Confused already?
Now let's add to the confusion by taking into account the delay caused by the diverted route. The train which left SBC on 12th, reached Hubli somewhere around 2 pm on the 13th. Naive of me to think that it takes 6 hours from Hubli to Miraj, 6 hrs. from Miraj to Pune and 4 hours from Pune to Mumbai, so that means 6530 will reach Mumbai latest by 6 am on 14th morning. Take into account a "turn around" time of 4 hours, we would be off by 10 am or latest 11 am - a delay of 2 - 3 hours. In actuality, the train reached Miraj at 8 pm on the 13th, and after that it disappeared. 139 kept on giving me different answers, because by that time another Udyan had started its journey from Bangalore. To add still more confusion, the train which had started from SBC on the 11th night had still not reached Bombay by 13th night. So, there were three 6530s running on that particular night and I was totally confused as to which train 139 was referring to.
So I did the next best thing I could think of. I called my friend Raju in Solapur, who I know has a friend who works in Central Railway Solapur division (not sure in what category). Through this friend, I confirmed that my train (ex SBC on 12th) had just entered CR territory at Miraj at 8 pm on 13th and would indeed leave from CST about 6 - 8 hours late on the 14th. So I told my in-laws to have a good night's sleep (we were in my house in Mumbai), and we could all get up at 7 am next morning. Before retiring for the night, I gave 139 another tinkle and confirmed that 6530 due to arrive on 13th was running 12 hours late. I had set the alarm for 6.30 am the next morning, and as soon as it went off, I rang up 139 again. The announcement came "6529 due to leave on 14th October is running right time and will leave CST at the scheduled time of 8.05 am." I nearly jumped out of my skin. I immediately called up Raju in Solapur and asked him to confirm with his friend. He rang back within 5 minutes - You better hurry up, your train will leave at 8 am"
P.T.Usha and others, take a back seat, the Mulky family is here. We were up in a jiffy, and without even brushing, just dumped out clothes in the bags, and were out in no time. Luckily there was a cab waiting just outside our lane, and he literally flew along the half empty streets of Mumbai. By the time we entered CST it was 7.25 am, but we had two old people and one young boy with us together with 8 pieces of luggage, and Udyan leaves from PF 15 (with the AC coaches right up in front) which is a long way to walk for a 70 year old lady with painful knees. I saw the indicator in the main concourse of CST and it showed 6529 Udyan Express departure 07.40. Still it did not strike me that there is something wrong. We made it somehow to the entrance to PF 15 when I saw the reservation chart and it showed 6529 dep. 13/10/2009. This was yesterday's (13th October) train which was running late by 23 hours and 35 mins. and would now leave on 14th at 07.40 am. The charts were half empty and we debated for a while whether to board this one or not. I was for boarding this train, and ready to pay the fare and penalty, but my wife was against it. In all the melee, we got separated with me and my son somewhere in the middle of the train, and my wife and in-laws still at the rear end. And then with a long hoot, the WDP4 in charge started moving ahead. In-laws, child all started yelling and shouting. But I stood still on the PF and watched the blue coaches slowly glide past. Later I found out that this was the train due to arrive on 12th night, which actually arrived on 14th morning at 4 am and was turned around in roughly 4 hours time to depart at 7.40 am. There were at least 200 - 300 other people on the PF in the same predicament as us. I don't know how many 14th passengers actually boarded the 13th train.
We regained our breath as my mother-in-law started massaging her painful legs. Just then another train was backed up onto the PF, and a wave of excitement passed amongst the Udyan passengers. But it was the Pushpak Express. I rang up my friend Raju in Solapur, who gave me his friend's (the one working for CR) number. He apologized profusely for making us run - what could I do? They are sending yesterday's train today and today's train tomorrow (in Hindi - kal ki gaadi aaj bhej rahe hain, aur aaj ki gaadi kal jayegi.). We then went to the waiting rooms in the long passage leading to PFs 14 - 18 and completed our brushing, etc. Then we deposited our heavy bags in the cloak room and had a nice breakfast at Refresh, the cafeteria at CST. The indicator at the main concourse now showed 6529 Udyan Express departure 00.20. The chap at the enquiry counter also confirmed that the Udyan due to depart on 14th morning will now leave on 15th at 00.20, and so did 139. We then went home, freshened up and spent the day in Mumbai visiting relatives.
After a good afternoon siesta, we woke up at 6.30 pm, had light snacks, and not wanting to take a chance, left for CST by 8 pm. Luckily we got good seats in the main concourse seating area, and I could see the various departures and arrivals listed on the indicators. Udyan had disappeared for now. But the enquiry counter, as well as 139 still confirmed departure time as 00.20. However, at 11 pm, a Gujarati family traveling from Jamnagar to Bangalore via Mumbai loudly announced that the incoming train had not yet reached Pune and the outgoing train will leave only tomorrow morning. The enquiry counter man still said 00.20, but the Station master confirmed what the Gujarati man had said. And within minutes, the indicator also showed the new timing of 11.05 am. A quick call to 139 also confirmed 11.05 am, so we collected our luggage from the cloak room, and went home and slept soundly.
Next morning (15th October), we were up at 6 am though, not wanting to take any more chances. 139 now said 12.10 pm (but this was not our train, as it was giving information for the train due to leave CST on the 15th). A call to Solapur confirmed that 6530 which was due to arrive in Mumbai on 13th night had actually arrived sometime early in the morning on the 15th (taking more than 30 hours from Miraj to Mumbai), and the train which was due to arrive on 14th night had arrived soon after that via the normal route, Raichur - Solapur, as the repairs to the bridges was completed. This time we did not have to rush, but still we were at CST by 9 am. Again a delicious breakfast at Refresh, and we settled down on PF 14 to wait for our train. The charts were put up at 10.30 am and we were relieved to see the chart saying 6529 Udyan Express departure 14/10/2009, and our names showing up. As expected, the train was more than half empty. One major improvement I noticed not only at CST, but also at Dadar, Kalyan and Karjat was the clear cut announcement - PF 14 ki gaadi, kal (yaane 14 taarik) ki Udyan Express hai, jo 11.05 ko jaayegi. Aaj ki (yaane 15 taarik ki Udyan Express 12.10 ko, yaane ek ghante ke baad chhutegi. (Translation: Train on PF 14 is Yesterday's (14th October) Udyan Express and will leave at 11.05. Today's train (15th October) will leave after an hour at 12.10.