Saturday, 17 May 2008

Bhusawal Blues: 1

The Calcutta Mail is one of the oldest and most prestigious trains of Indian Railways. Every day, she leaves from Bombay’s Victoria Terminus (now renamed Mumbai CST) at 21.25 hours, embarking on a journey that will cover over 2100 kilometres and take close to 38 hours. She will stop at 48 stations in between, before arriving at her final destination in the eastern coast of India. It is a long, dusty haul along the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal and now, after the formation of new states, I suspect even Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

Sorry for the Paul Theroux impersonation, but I had to give you this information so that you have an idea about the large geographical region that is serviced by this train. As you can imagine, this train is a lifeline for the large migrant population of North and East Indians and even Bangladeshi immigrants living and working in Bombay. Being less expensive than the super fast trains such as the Gitanjali Express which ply the same route, the Calcutta Mail is preferred by the poorer sections of the society and pulls out, every night from Bombay, with every seat and every berth taken and the unreserved compartments literally bursting at the seams or at the welds, if you please.

So I decide one day to take the Calcutta Mail on an overnight journey to Bhusawal in North Maharashtra. Bisque has been working there in a power station for a year now and has invited me to spend a weekend with him. The train reaches Bhusawal early morning the following day and Bisque has promised to pick me up from the station and take me to his quarters, 15 kilometres from the main town.

Three factors combine to make this journey one of the most unforgettable in my life:

I undertake this trip in May, at the height of summer when the mercury in interior Maharashtra can touch a searing 45 degrees Celsius.

Fully confident of Bisque’s ability to carry out a simple task such as picking up a friend from a railway station, I carry neither his address nor his phone number.

In a spirit of reckless adventure, I decide not to book a sleeping berth and travel in the unreserved compartment.

The retribution comes swiftly enough.

Photo Courtesy: Anir's Public Gallery, Picasa web Albums


Vijay said...

A brave man Rada... looking forward to Part 2.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

very brave man.. i have been forced to do that once from nanded to bombay,( and without ticket at that, let alone reserved) ..was interesting.

waiting for the updates

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.