This is first in a series of posts giving a virtual re-tour of numerous amazing journeys I have experienced over the years through the length and breadth of India.
A 1000+ km journey across the length of India had to be special. And it was. It really was. Right from the moment we boarded the Swaraj Express from Baroda at 1 pm on a fine March afternoon. The three of us- me, mom and dad had booked non AC Sleeper tickets for the long journey and my first disappointmant- no window seat for any of us! But as it had always been the case on all previous journeys, the fellow passngers are always accomodating and the other 3 passengers, in this case a young couple with a 3 year kiddo decide to part one of their two window seats to us. So, now I am finally happy!
The first few hours were all about appreciating high speed as we pass through arid plains of Gujarat, the ever-in-news Godhra and into Ratlam at dusk. by this time we hav already run out of water and so me and dad get down and search the platform which was unusually deserted for a station as big as ratlam for water and finally manage to get a bottle of wierd tasting water- I guess it was desert groundwater! The journey from here followed some amazingly barren landscrpes till Nagda- the entire area looked like another planet!
At Nagda, again dad gets down to get some foodstuff while I wait inside this time with mom. it was pretty dark with no lights on the station and when the train sounded the starter whistle, dad was not to be seen driving me and mom crazy! But not to worry! He had got into the next compartment and returned soon. By this time, the kiddo with the young couple is geting restless and when his mom told him to remove his shoes and keep it safe, he decides to keep it safe forever- he justs throws them out of the open window of the train blasting through at 90kmph. Gone Forever!
After the typical packed dinner that is a speciality of all train journeys in India, I go to sleep only to be woken up by sounds of "Mathura ka pedhe lo". No, it wasnt Mathura. It was New Delhi. And it was 4 am. This train has a surprising 1 hour halt at New Delhi for God knows what reason. I guess such silly schedules justify presence of 12+ platforms at New Delhi station. But what was most irritating was the pre recorded announcements for the various trains- whether already arrived or expected after 12 hours! After constantly bearing this blabber for one hour, getting sleep again was impossible!
Its early morning of typical Punjab winter. The temperature outside is freezing cold and to add to it, Swaraj is doing more than 100kmph through the beautiful lush green plains of Punjab with a blanket of fog spread over the fields and the golden sun just out from the horizon! You can call it DDLJ Revisited! The only two people 'enjoying' this cold are me and dad, sitting with our two windows open while all other 70 passengers are in blankets with windows tight shut!
And amidst this wonderful weather, we reach Ambala where I was surprised to find piping hot Chhole Bhature being sold on the platform at 7 am. On any other day i would have not even cared about Chhole Bhature but that atmosphere somehow generated a craving for Chhole bhature in me, that too after we had departed from Ambala, so mush so that i was literally throwing tantrums! Finally, when we reached Ludhiana, i satisfied my craving with a Rs. 5 Chhole Puri (No Bhature here!). After another couple of hours through the Punjab countryside, we finally arrive at Jalandhar Cantt Junction, a beautiful British styled building to welcome us, and that brings us to the end of a wonderful journey!