Ukshi... Kya Kushi!!!
by Sridhar Joshi
Trip Report: Thane Madgaon Thane on 11/12-07-2005 Length: 3776 words.
As I stepped outside the TNA station on the early morning of the 12th July, I was wet with Raindrops on my shirt and my hair, and I was happy. I had precisely set out to catch a bit of rain, and I had been disappointed as far as Pune and Bombay are concerned. The trip to Pune from MAS (Earlier report WHERE ARE THE RAINDROPS, posted on 13th July), had been done in a fair bit of heavy rain, and I was looking forward.
The newspaper purchased, the cigarette smoked at the early hour of 05.30, I settled on PF 5 of Thane, waiting for the JS to arrive. The coach position, funnily indicated the Engine at NO.5, SL1 at 6, and so on till SC1. which was 11th from the loco. The station could have had the board "Jan Shatabdi Engine to stop here", which I did not notice, and which the loco pilot of the JS either did not notice, or cared to ignore, and he went to a dead stop right near the starter. I was a long run to the coaches, and most of us had to run about 7 coach distance to the mad scramble to get on.
The trains started at 05.58, and the loco was a 14051 DM 2C from Ernakulam, which looked like a baldie, though the age was well hidden and he seemed a handsome macho young man, raring to go. We were driving LHF. The coach was 03608, and had no drop down insect screens that some JS rakes have. The rake itself was a hotch potch affair, some in the std livery of the JS, some in the IR standard livery, some very clean outside, and some carried the muck of a couple of months, with a clear clean pattern like "Meena…I Love You …. Suresh". Looks like even the monuments are not enough for our romantic heroes.
We passed the Parsik tunnel shortly thereafter and swung right on to the line to KR. Saw a couple of trains passing by on diesel hauled and one hauled by what looked surprisingly a WAG7. I was also surprised to see AC wires in Diva, and pardon my ignorance, what are the areas under AC wires in Mumbai area.
We passed small stations en route to Panvel, and may be before Panvel (it could even be after), we passed a station called Nagothane, right beside the coal dump. Thank God I was wearing a dark coloured T Shirt, else the dust of coal, inspite of the rains, could easily have settled on the shirt. It anyway settled on the tables, seats etc. We also had to wait for about 20 mts at Somtane for the Roha Diva Pass to pass, which was hauled by the KYN WDM2.
I had earlier made a rough check of the occupancy, and just SC1 was full. The SC2 and SC3 had about 35 and 65 seats vacant, and there were no passengers in the other three coaches. The hot idly vadas I had at the early hour of about 06.30, had to be done carefully, for any move of the couple in the next seats, would mean that the food would spill off my spoon on to my dress! With no slips between the cup and lip, I made a quick visit to the TTE, comfortably esconced in C1 coach with newspaper, and a request to shift was made, and headed with my bag, slightly irritating the old couple, and also making them happier, that could share three seats between the two. I was also happy that I would be almost at the head of the train. I settled in the seat right at the middle of the coach, where there is a center table, and the only rows to have seats face each other.
We passed Roha in about an hour after Panvel, and there was heavy rain. Just the kind of climes I wanted! The ballast retaining metal nets, the boulder protection nets were all indicating to me that we were on KR territory. The train did a fairly good speed, and even touched 100 or 105 upto Roha. After passing what could be the first tunnel of KR we blasted passed a station called Diwankhavati, at a temperature at least 6 degrees cooler than when I boarded the JS at Thane. Probably the abode of Diwans, it was a misnomer… the station bldg was nothing to write home about.
At Khed, after about a 5 mt wait, we let the Ratnagiri Dadar Passenger train to cross us. This was headed by the smart looking, clean WDM2 18354 of Kalyan. All coaches of Konkan railway are marked KR/SWR "TO PLY ONLY ON KONKAN RAILWAY", though the train had a couple of coaches that had no such markings.
The beautiful sights only increased thereafter, and there was a river making its journey alongside us on the right towards Ratnagiri (RN). We said goodbye and met again many times during the course of the journey. Briefly going invisible, as we veered off left, we again came face to face for some time. Looked like a dilly dally love affair had just begun. What added to the beauty was another river on the left of the track, playing exactly the same moves as the one on the right. Was difficult to decipher which was the heroine to us and which was the vamp on the trip! I later came to know that the one on the left was the Jagpudi and on the right was called Vashishti. As Mark Twain said, east is east….., the two never met, and were out of sight slightly after Anjani station. Probably they exchanged waters once in a while over the numerous streams, but this only seemed a brief affair, and not a lasting marriage.
Just before Anjani, we entered a Tunnel, and as I came out to the door, as I must have done a hundred times that day, I saw a green signal light inside, the Inner home signal (Distant Home) of the Anjani, with a board P clearly visible in the loco lights. The home signal was just outside the Tunnel and we passed the station at a fair pace.
We arrived Chiplun at 09.57, waited for time to start, amid heavy rain. Feeling hungry again, I lobbed a grenade into my mouth, the hot and spicy chutney powder, the pav and the very hot vada, making it a heady mix and just the right one to eat in drenching rain! At Chiplun, the sights we saw was a Ro-Ro train to MAO side and the Lakshadweep Exp towards PNVL. We left Chiplun and encountered another long tunnel just before Kamathe. Another long tunnel after the station and we entered passed a station called Savarda amid another spell of heavy rain.
The funny thing on this route is the weather pattern. We went into many tunnels amid heavy rain and exited in bright sunshine. There were some other tunnels we entered in bright sunshine. Ah.. now I remember. Something called windward side and the leeward side. My geography teacher from school, would finally turn in his grave, happy that I at last understood some concepts.
Most hills leading to tunnels and many without tunnels ahead had the protective metal netting, some small nets, and some sturdy ones. Some had rocks of varying sizes at the bottom gathering of the nets, clearly an indication that some activity of loosening of small rocks was happening. We later passed a river bridge before Aravali Road station, and we were literally in a deluge. Probably the heaviest rains since I left MAS, till now happened here and the run for some time was very sobered. The tunnels with cascading waters gave us a break from rain - there was no windward leeward effect for quite some time thereafter.
The sights are really wonderful on the entire route. IT would be very difficult to pick the best stretch. The snaking shining highways, clean and dark with white lines at the middle, the tree filled mountain sides, enough greenery to freshen us up for another few months, the fields with what looked like paddy.
The fields were abuzz in the heavy rain also. Paddy sprout (is there any botanist on this group - is that the right word?), was in various shapes in the middle of the fields - squares, rectangles, hexagons etc. Farmhands, singing some inaudible folk songs, were furiously transplanting these across the entire fields in the heavy rain. A cursory glance at the train, and it was back to work. "You have nothing to do - you lazy railfan, and we can't miss this season", was what their glance seemed to suggest. How true they were.
What also took the cake was the wonderful planning to keep the water from stagnating and ruining the crops, was the ingenious method of a small outlet for the waters. The water would drain into the field segments below, which would in turn have another outlet and so on till it reached a pond or a stream. Perfect Table Farming, I found out, making my geography teacher turn again in his grave. The sprouts (again), in some fields were in circles, and I thought for a moment, the Konkan had something to do even with Hollywood. May be Manoj Night Shyamalan got the inspiration for his movie (Sixth Sense?) with all the crop circles he saw on KR.
There were also a lot of waterfalls, as that precipitations had to come down alongside the mountains. They presented a wonderful sight, and more importantly cleared the mud alongside the mountain rocks. There was probably a lot more erosion of soil from the mountain slopes, which explains for the fact that most rivers and streams had water coloured like Kissan Orange Squash. The storm water drains alongside the tracks had clear water, since no erosion was involved here.
We passed Sangameshwar Road amid water falls and then what could be the tallest viaduct on the KR - the one on the Shanti river. There was no Shanthi on this river - water making a lot of noise as it gushed past rocks and into pits foaming at every opportunity. It might have been named during calmer times - when there was no Iraq, 9/11, 7/7, Kashmir etc.
The tunnels, viaducts and the roofless mountainsides seemed to compete in outnumbering the other, and we passed them with ease, some fast, some slow, and some medium pace. We passed the Ukshi station with a huge waterfall on the right just beyond the loop and the station on the left. I did not notice anything that has to do with this station on my trip to MAO. Only on the return I noticed something - this is the MOST BEAUTIFUL station on this route. I am not posting a separate report for the return - so I will deal with the Kushi called Ukshi right here.
A tunnel, a small viaduct and the track amid tall mountains. Some track shifting noise later, the single line doubles, and then trebles. On the return, the Mandovi we are in, halts to let a Ro-Ro pass. Tall mountains are a perfect canopy for the hot sun, or the heavy rain now - we feel only a drizzle, though heavy rain pounds the station. The only things visible on either side are the signals for the three lines on either side, the rock cuttings and the platform surface, still not paved, except for the edges. I wondered at the futility of having a station here - and of the misfortune some people have in working here in the absence of a pucca building, and other basic facilities. Imagine my surprise, as I saw the station building, in another rock cutting - only so deep so as to have a building - complete with toilet, SMs room, panel, relays for signaling and interlocking equipment, fully electrified. It nestled amid the rocks and the mountains, and there was this ethereal look to the entire landscape - Man can try but nature always wins. It was a wonderful sight - I really feel lost that I do not have a decent camera. This sight, though doesn't need a camera - it will stay etched in my mind till my day is done. Ukshi … Kya Kushi.
We then entered into many small and longish tunnels and viaducts until we reached a station called Bhoke (Bhoke, probably means cave or a cavern or a big hole in Kannada, and may mean the same in Marathi). Viaducts on either sides - aptly called Bhoke 1 and Bhoke 2, border the station. We then enter at 20 kmph, what is the longest of them all - the tunnel called Karbude. At 6.5 kms, we notch up once the caution order is over, only to come back down to earth to 30 kmph at the next caution - in the tunnel. All that I see is some vapour lamps, and massive exhaust fans that blow away the diesel exhaust. Even with the exhaust, I had to come back to the coach from the door once a while to catch come fresh breath. I am, touchwood, not an asthmatic, but I would have happily run the risk of multiple doses nebulizers that day - such was the charm of KR. We took a full 10 mts to cross the tunnel and it was then sanity was restored - in my mind. Thoughts crossed me as rapidly as I was admiring man's transient victory over nature. What if the loco stalled? What if there was a landslide, and the tunnel came crashing down? I thanked myself for the few LIC policies I have, and was overwhelmed with submission to nature. Oh, my God! (This was the name I chose for this report - and has happens with Bollywood, Ukshi won the vote!).
The Bhoke 2 viaduct was a wonderful view earlier. A river meandering - probably looking for a drier place to warm itself - a black topped shiny road - both beyond the mountains that were the immediate neighbours of the race, oops, railtrack, and the beautiful table farmlands with paddy transplantation. As if to cock a snook at the paddy, the Alphonso trees stood tall - it was the fag end of the season and there were no fruits or flowers. The trees seemed to wait for the monsoon to end - they had a work to do - earn exchange for India - but couldn't do it in the rain. They were just biding their time.
Ratnagiri was reached 25 mts before time, and it was a wait of 35 mts before we left - did we make a mockery of the monsoon Speed Restrictions? I chatted up the Pilot, who didn't reveal much about his work - probably a Hollywood script or the latest Harry Potter, we wouldn't know - but he was in a hurry to head off to the confines of his running room. The asst of the loco to work beyond RN to MAO had arrived, and he also seemed as unfriendly and answered in monosyllables. He was more friendly - my first impression was wrong - I was probably disturbing him when he was just getting into the groove. We had a long chat that evening in MAO, during dinnertime, at an awful place called Benjoe - more about that later.
Ratnagiri was bang in the middle of mountains - we were on PF 1. WDM 2C hauling the Nethravathi was on Platform 2. We left saying goodbye to the automatic car washing plant, the coach maintenance yard with two catwalks and other standard railway sights. This is a very important place in the context of KR, and it showed absolutely no airs about its importance - no airs like a Pune, like a Guntakal, like a Madras - it sat quietly doing its job with pride.
We later passed Ratnagiri town, which is at a significantly lower altitude thatn the station - and passed a viaduct called simply VIADUCT 1 - probably dearth of leaders to name this one after. The town itself was expansive with good roads, clean environs and looked like on earning good for'n exchange. The name suited it best - jewel of the mountain.
As we came into a tunnel about 6 mts after leaving RN and exited the tunnel, there was bright sunshine - probably the brightest of the day so far, and I remembered the geography teacher again.
We passed Adavli at 12.22 where the MAO RN pass waited for us to waltz by, hauled by a ED WDM2 - the shed which the Asst loco pilot maintained that locos were best maintained. Around 12.40 hrs, darkness descended as though Krishna had ordained in the Mahabharat - heavy rain - it rained felines and canines and we came to a abrupt halt at Vaibhavwadi Road at 13.10 hrs. The crystal clear water flowed in torrents along the storm water drains, which were 3 feet in width and about a foot deep. The water with red soil along the mountainside tried hard, but without success to pollute the clean rain water in the drain. With no place to go, due to the heavy rain, I moved from side to side. Noticing that the signal was still ON for the train in the opposite direction. It stayed so till 13.35 when the signal turned green for a train in the opposite direction. The JS to DR breezed past, and it was clear that the controller had goofed up - we could have cleared the next block in about 15 mts, with a halt of only 5 mts for either of the trains, we could have saved 20 mts.
The loco of our train was letting out a steady, beat or throb of the engine. I remember Poochi pointing out to a loco at Egmore and informing me that it was equipped with a Woodwards governor. The only woodwards I knew was the gripe water that I had when I was a toddler, and the only governors I remembered were the ones notorious for helping the aya rams gaya rams in the assemblies. The loco, though was pure music to me, woodwards or not.
We waited the Marusagar Exp (ERS-JP) at Kankavali, where I saw a board on the platform - the shelter was being extended. The materials were all over the platform and the board read "SORRY FOR THE INCONVINIUS" (sic). It was exactly in the same place when I returned by the Mandovi - the next day. I was sure it would, since there was still a lot of work to do.
We passed the GAD river and then on to the mountain sides and a few small tunners. The rock faces on the mountains looked so different - no rough edges and cuts on the rock faces. I thought that was natural and characteristic of this part of KR - until I found out on the return, that the edges were smoothened and plastered with cement. The projection were rounded off - and they seemed irrecognizable faces like on the Hollywood.
We passed Sawantwadi Road and the double discharge platform seemed a surprise for the kind of traffic that gets off and on at that station. During my return, I saw that the other side was the platform for the loop line, and sloped to this line, and was not a platform at all. We had a shameful halt of about 30 secs, at Pernem, spelt PENDNE, in Hindi and Marathi or Konkani? - a dead halt to disgorge a lone traveler, who going by the uniform was a staffer - may be a TTE, who was longing to get back home to the warm embrace of his wife at the earliest - damn the 200 odd people on the train.
Marathi or Konkani I wouldn't know of the station signboards on this side of KR. There is a huge battle being fought on the script to be used for Konkani - and I had a feeling the Devanagari had won over here in Goa, over the Kannada preferred by some section in Karnataka.
We passed Karmali, where I saw a very quaint looking FOB connecting the two platforms. Again I was cheated by what looked like a double discharge PF, which I found out was not when I returned. There was a ramp to take you about 2 or 3 feet elevated, then you had to turn around and return in the opposite direction to gain another 3 feet and so on until you made 5 or six turns, crossed the tracks, and undid what you did on the other side.
We passed Zuari at about 16.00 hours, Verna about 16.07 amidst heavy rains, and we encountered a parallel track. KR was milestoned at about 433, and the milestones on the other track read 93/x. This was probably the SCR, now SWR track from MAO to VSG. The distance probably read from Castle Rock.
We reached MAO at 16.25 thanks to the botched up crossing, and a heavy shower welcomed us. My retiring room was obtained with some convincing, since the communication from the PRO had not reached, and I was off to change, freshen and have some snack. The lunch I had on JS was the Veg Biriyani, which was good, but the portions were small. The service closed as early as 3.00 p.m., even tea / coffee was not sold afterwards, though you could walk down to the pantry and get a cuppa.
Guys going to MAO beware of the Benjoe's restaurant. The veg section is awful - I hence didn't risk the Non Veg section. The idlies are bad and the chutney at 18.00 hrs was stale, the sambar was just coloured salted water. The veg biriyani I had later in the night was dripping in oil, and there was no raita. AN equally oily aloo gravy was the side dish. I am lucky I escaped with no delhi belly - but there was no place to go in the heavy rain that lasted all night and eased off only in the morning. I had only tea and waited for the Mandovi for the morning's breakfast.
After a good night's sleep, I headed by the next day's Mandovi back to Thane, and reached on time. This report has taken me a good 2.5 hrs to do extempore, and observations of the return journey are included in this report. There will be report titled AH AH AHUJA, on the excellent catering on the Mandovi Exp, if members feel it is not off topic. That should read more like a food review.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this report - and again apologies for length.