Wednesday, 16 May 2018

First Humsafar Express at Egmore - Action Filled Evening With Amazing Twists!!!

The first Humsafar Express to touch Chennai Egmore had absolutely nothing going right as it was trolled even in its fag end of the journey.


From being before time a little before Bhopal, to being 1 hour late at Bhopal, 2 hours late at Nagpur, 4 hours late at Balharshah, 5 hours late at Vijayawada and finally 12 hours late at Chennai Egmore while being 9 hours 42 minutes late at Tambaram, courtesy some serious slack.

The train departed Vijayawada soon after I woke up, at 5.40 AM in the morning. Given that it had just 2 halts, I expected the train to be given full priority as there was no other train in front of it, although the high priority Pinakini Express was chasing it, albeit with more halts.

The screw up started around 10 AM at Nellore. Humsafar was looped at every alternate station and overtaken by Pinakini, Bangalore bound Sanghamitra, Shalimar - Chennai Express and the Ongole - Gudur MEMU. Added to this was a line block near Odur that blocked the trains that were now ahead of it.


A fine run from Gudur in Southern Railway meant the train reached Chennai Beach by 5.00 PM. However, there was yet another problem at Egmore. Two trains, Pondicherry - Howrah Superfast and Villupuram - Kharagpur Superfast were diverted via Chennai Egmore - Rengiunta instead of the usual route of Thiruvannamalai - Vellore Cantt - Katpadi - Renigunta. This lead to absolute chaos as the number of platforms at Egmore proved absolutely insufficient.

Chengalpattu - Kacheguda arrived at Egmore as per schedule and departed at 5.05 PM. This was followed by the Puducherry - Howrah SF. Both departed from PF 6. Then, Chengalpattu - Kakinada Circar Express entered PF5 even as Kanyakumari SF left from 4. Villupuram - Kharagpur followed Circar onto PF 6. Sethu left from PF 9 and Boat Mail was shunted onto the same. Meanwhile, Chennai Beach was in chaos. There were Humsafar and Jodhpur - Egmore SF waiting at Beach, Tamil Nadu Sampark Kranti at Washermanpet and it was the evening peak hour as well. Once Circar departed, there was an announcement of Humsafar arriving at 6 PM. It was 6.20 PM and Tirumalpur Fast entered the PF5 where Humsafar was supposed to be berthed. Meanwhile, the Vellore Fast from Melmaruvathur arrived on PF4. Kharagpur SF was still on PF 6. Both the locals left and Humsafar finally arrived at 6.40 PM, taking a good 100 minutes for the 4 Km from Beach to Egmore. As soon as Humsafar arrived, Kharagpur SF left. Chengalpattu Fast was coming on PF6 and Cholan arrived on PF4.


Out of the blue, Chengalpattu Fast and Humsafar departed parallel from Egmore. The fast local was switched to the A line at Kodambakkam as the rake of Pearl City was waiting on the B line to be shunted to Egmore. Humsafar followed the local to Tambaram, finally reaching at 7.42 PM, late by 10 hours 42 minutes.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

A Bluetiful Date....

A blue eyed girl in a blue salwar
A blooming flower in a blue metro car
A blueberry bird flying afar
A blue hued love beneath the star

He would have loved to call it his fist date with her. Having known her for many years since school, he had started talking just weeks before. He had been stunned by the pace at which they grew close. A replica of himself, he had missed knowing for years. He reached her office a few minutes late. It didn’t matter as the delay was mutual, just like many other stuff. They had planned to both wear blue.
He mentally swooned as he caught sight of her exiting her workplace. Drop dead gorgeous seemed lacking as English didn’t have the adjectives to describe her. Time stopped, as did his eyes. They were awestruck and stuck on her face, drinking in her beauty.
Chennai’s traffic meant they went by the Metro and not his bike. He was glad as he just wanted to keep looking at her. Metro was also the fastest way to Anna Nagar from Ashok Nagar. Anna Nagar is a heaven for foodies and couples. So, the bike was laid to rest in the parking as the train whooshed into the station.
Memories hit hard, harder than trains probably. He was controlling his tears.
An Italian restaurant in Anna Nagar was the destination. The foodie he was, he couldn’t understand how she could eat so less. The ice cream was less of a disaster as she ate more. As she gracefully ate a spoon of ice cream, he couldn’t help staring open mouthed. He was melting faster than the butterscotch on her lips.
 Food apart, he couldn’t figure out what was going on in her mind. Was it a date? Was he acting stupid? Desperate idiot seemed more apt to him. He decided that it would be the worst idea to kiss her and tell her that she was the most beautiful woman he had set his eyes on. Holding her hands was bliss and he still didn’t know if it was a date.
It was a bad idea, he thought. He wanted to know, he knew. He blurted out after contemplating for long. “Do you think this is our first date?” Silence.
He knew he had screwed it. History was repeating. Regret for his words.
“Yes”, she smiled. Ecstatic failed to describe his emotions. Alcohol would have never made him so high, ever. A grin he had long lost, was slowly beginning to come afore. A story was beginning.
Two little people, each draped in blue, one beautiful couple, together like glue.
Deep in his heart, he knew. It was the beginning. A beautiful story that would lead to yet another tragic end.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

First Day Show, The Race Against Fate to watch KABALI !!!

The release of Kabali, starring Superstar Rajnikant had created unprecedented waves across Tamil Nadu and many parts of the country. Many companies had declared a holiday, well knowing that employees would avail of a leave even if it hadn’t been declared. A college had postponed its examination so that it won’t be a hindrance for the students to catch up with the action. Meanwhile, five students race against time to complete their work at college and also catch up with the movie, before leaving the city on their respective trips.
22nd June 2016. The college was buzzing with almost everyone in class having purchased the tickets for Kabali, scheduled to release the next day. Being a Marwari, despite being born and brought up in Chennai, Tamil movies seldom fascinate me. However, the teaser of Kabali had induced excitement in me to watch the movie at any cost. With Saaluvesh in the squad, an ardent fan of “Thalaivar”, it was all the more important that we catch up with the movie on the first day.
We, despite the frenzy, hadn’t got the tickets as we didn’t feel like standing in the scorching sun just to get measly tickets. By afternoon, we realized that Mayajaal had still not opened the booking. We rushed to Mayajaal despite our indifference for the horrible screen quality there. Nikhil, Pranoy and Guru decided to stay at Mayajaal under the pretext of watching some horrible movie to get the tickets. Three hours later at college, we were cursing our luck as we had to stay back and receive our racing team’s car from the transporters who were bringing it from Delhi. Pranoy and Guru had got tickets at a theatre near their house, courtesy their school friends and we five were stranded.
By 7PM, we were at Vandalur, sitting on Saaluvesh’s car wondering if the day could get any worse. The truck driver was from Nagaland. He wasn’t ready to deliver the car by the night as the trailer had developed a technical snag near Madurantakam. Ragu and Vinay were trying to contact the travels dealer from the college while we were counting the number of cars crossing Vandalur signal. Utkarsh, a friend of Saaluvesh, studying in SRM, came as a God sent, as he welcomed us to his room at Potheri. While the phone calls were being exchanged between Ragu and the truck driver, we were trying our level best to understand the “Railfan” talks of Utkarsh and Saaluvesh, to no avail though.
With our phones charged and information received that we had to drive up to Madurantakam to get our project car, we dreaded at the sight of a long dreary night ahead. Meanwhile Nikhil and Saaluvesh were trying to find tickets in theatres far away from the city such as Vaniyambadi and Ambur. The very thought of watching a movie sitting in broken chairs and without AC was nauseating and Prateek was frowning at the very thought of spending on such a long trip. Thankfully, Saaluvesh had to leave for Trichy in 24 hours and this wasn’t to be executed.
Four hours later, we were sitting in the car, near Madurantakam, in the truck parking bay. The local truck driver from Kelambakkam, who was to shift our car to college was yet to arrive. The rain, thankfully, kept us awake as we waited like vagabonds in the middle of nowhere and cursing our luck. Meanwhile, Ragu and Vinay broke the news that they had got the tickets for Kabali at a theatre in TIruporur. That was the reason, they had been late to start from college. I could just visualize our gang as the goats for the night’s sacrifice to the Almighty, for say, the sake a successful box office run for Kabali.
The truck driver arrived at half past one and then began the humongous ask of shifting our race car from a huge Nagaland registered trailer to a mini truck. The hydraulics of the trailer caught my attention though. It was interesting to see the huge door open as the hydraulic pumps were being activated electronically from the truck’s battery. It included some technical “jugaad” but let’s have that story for another time. After about thirty minutes of work, the car was loaded on to the smaller truck and we were all set to leave.
Our group is full of vegetarians although some eat egg at times. The sight of non veg is nauseating to me but I could still see the sacrificial goats getting slaughtered and the names Sandip, Prateek, Nikhil and Saaluvesh engraved in bold on them. Ragu and Vinay drove off under the pretext of getting a smoke while we had to trail the mini truck to ensure the safety of the car. It also included explaining to officials that the car was ours and it was not being stolen, if stopped and queried. The only luck that went our way was the lack of any such untoward incident. Untoward incidents could also mean a hungry Saaluvesh getting pissed off in the middle of the road and refusing to drive further. His stomach however decided that we had had enough and didn’t disturb us.
At college, it wasn’t the best of works as the lab was locked and the key was with the HoD who was more than a hundred kilometres away. However, as the negotiations were on to decide where the car was to be parked until the morning, Saaluvesh realized that tickets were available for Kabali at C3 cinemas, Chengalpattu and Nikhil rammed Saaluvesh’s car into Vinay’s. It’s not every day that someone rams a car from behind into the only other car parked in over hundred metres long and twenty metres wide parking lot. Damages were nil as the speed was about that of a sloth but it was enough for Nikhil to never drive Saaluvesh’s car again.
Five tickets were booked for the afternoon show that begins three hours after noon. Saaluvesh decided to board his train from Tambaram instead of Egmore and Nikhil believed that he could convince his dad to take his Fiesta. To be frank, Nikhil’s fiesta has a better AC than Saaluvesh’s dZire but despite being a good driver, Nikhil was yet to obtain his license, which meant he never brought his car. He believed, using Saaluvesh’s name would be good enough to get his car. I was fine with going by train, but the theatre was a good eight kilometres from Chengalpattu railway station and on the highway, which translated into poor connectivity.
The security guards let us park our race car next to the automobile department, but only upto nine in the morning after which, it would be seized or dismantled if not removed. I didn’t believe they’d do that but it wasn’t my headache. We had suffered enough for the night and the lack of sleep was immense. We drove to Besant Nagar beach. It was about to be four in the morning and Saaluvesh felt we could spend an hour at the beach rather than disturb his parents’ sleep.
Halfway towards the sea, we heard the police siren and a warning was issued that we report to the patrol vehicle immediately. We were asked not to venture towards the sea until five, which meant Saaluvesh preferred dropping us at Broadway. He dropped me near my house and Prateek somewhere near his house. I know for sure Saaluvesh would never visit Prateek’s house even in a life and death situation. He’d invite Prateek over but would never return the visit. Reasons unknown but I just know he won’t.
A sound sleep and eleven hours after midnight, I was calling Saaluvesh but he was snoring away in glory. Akshay, instead of Prateek, was coming for the movie. It was an hour since noon when Saaluvesh finally turned up at Nikhil’s house in Tambaram. Being late is something he doesn’t like but somehow ends up late every time. It was a shock to me that Nikhil’s father asked Saaluvesh to drive. He himself expected Nikhil to drive. However, the lack of a license, or loss of a license as claimed by Nikhil, meant Saaluvesh was to drive. Saaluvesh is good enough a driver to drive any vehicle without much fuss. His claim of not being to adapt to different vehicles seems a lame excuse to me. We reached the theatre with five minutes to spare. The melee meant we got to our seats five minutes late but it also meant the movie would begin ten minutes late.
“Naa vandhutten nu sollu. Thirumbi vandhutten nu. Epdi ponaaro, Kabali apdiye thirumbi vandhutaar nu poyi sollu”, the charisma of Rajnikant is just unassailable. It was one of the best entry scenes I had seen in any Tamil movie. I haven’t watched many, so I suppose that’s the best. The movie wasn’t what we expected. The teaser had shown us a mass movie that would be loved by the masses. It turned out to be a class movie loved by people of all classes. The interval had us waiting for more as Rajnikant had been shot and rumours had been rife that Rajnikant dies in the movie. Given that it’s a slow movie, the thrill levels had just reached the zenith just before the interval. The second half was slightly faster. There was some of the usual Rajni effect. The climax was left open as the audience only here a gun shot and don’t know the fate of the don, Kabaleeswaran.
The movie had not lived up to its expectations. It had been way more than that. Walking in to a movie expecting action and ending up with one of the most poignant tales of a don searching for his long lost wife had made our struggle worthwhile. The fact that we travelled nearly seventy kilometres from Broadway, just to watch Thalaivar showed his enormous appeal in the silver screen.

We drove up to Vandalur where we caught a train to Beach. Saaluvesh drove upto Tambaram station and handed the reins of the car to Nikhil as he caught his train to Tiruchy. Nikhil, thankfully, drove his car home without any untoward incident and the sleep that night was satisfying after thirty six hours of work and fun. 

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Shirdi Mei Babaji Ka Thullu!

It was a beautiful Saturday evening when our work at Pune ended. Our train to Chennai was on Monday morning which meant about 36 hours to while away. We had planned to pay a visit to the shrine of Sai Baba at Shirdi. Thanks to the name of being an expert with trains, I was handed the responsibility of planning and executing the trip. Since the three others wanted an early morning darshan, they were ready to get crushed in the Pataliputra express that departs Pune at 2055 and reaches Kopargaon at half past one. However, lethargic loonies that my cronies turned out to be, we left for the station from our place of stay, a good six kilometers away, with about fifteen minutes left for our train to depart. Pune traffic isn’t generally very high but when your luck runs faster than you do, even Rahul Gandhi might end up having a better IQ than you. Reaching the station five minutes after the scheduled departure of the Pataliputra bound train hadn’t prevented us from frantically running towards the platform after obtaining our tickets. My instincts told me that we could catch our train at Daund Jn if we had a connecting train to Daund soon.

Spotting a train arriving on some random platform with a diesel locomotive, I ran down the stairs followed by three people who had no clue about what was going on. The destination board read that it was the biweekly express to Chennai from Ahmedabad via Panvel. “This goes to Daund and it will reach before Pataliputra express departs”, I assured my friends as we jumped into the unreserved compartment that seemed quite empty given that we actually had place to sit comfortably. It wasn’t that we didn’t have any trains to Shirdi if we missed the Pataliputra express at Daund as there was the Gondia bound Maharashtra Express around midnight, except that it would be quite late and we would miss the early morning Darshan. However, a backup at Daund reassured me to take the risk of boarding the Chennai bound train.

Our train departed fifteen minutes past nine and five minutes past the scheduled departure. A girl standing next to the Ahmedabad bound Duronto distracted the trio while the mismatched livery was my source of amusement. An hour into hour departure from Pune, our train slowed down as we approached Daund. My worst fears seemed to be coming true. Our train might be left in the lurch, stranded at the home signal as the Pataliputra express might be allowed to depart. A nervous nine seconds later, the change in the signal made me smile like I had got committed with the love of my life. Our train slowly accelerated towards the station. The sight of a WDP4D humming with the Pataliputra express took my excitement to the zenith. I had successfully brought my friends to board the train we had missed. Our train seemed to be accelerating at the same speed of my excitement. The speed seemed a bit too high for a stopping train. Realization dawned upon me as I stared deep at the signal ahead. Ahmedabad Chennai Biweekly Express via Panvel does not stop at Daund.

When you have three pairs of shocked eyes staring at you for misleading them into boarding the wrong train when they trusted your passion and knowledge blindly, the heart desperately wants the brain to command a jump from the door of a speeding train. The brain was however too shocked to react to this situation. A rather late glance at the timetable of the train informed us that we would have to wait until Solapur to alight. Curses poured in at speeds that left the speeding train look like a snail. The fact that I wasn’t interested in going to Shirdi in the first place only intensified their suspecting a conspiracy on my part. The shrill tone of the train rushing into the wilderness through midnight only added to the fear.

Thirty terrible minutes later, the train stopped at a remote station Bhigwan. I urged my friends to alight promising to correct my error. Thankfully they trusted me, though not wholeheartedly. The Railway Police Force personnel at the station and the station master present were sympathetic to our error and said that we could take the Siddheshwar express that comes at a quarter past one to Daund and the Manmad bound passenger from Pune, to Puntamba which is the closest station to Shirdi. A half and two hours were to be spent on the platform in a cold railway station in the middle of a jungle in winter at midnight. As a railfan, I was excited about the prospect of enjoying high speed diesel action in the middle of the night while the human in me pitied my friends for my betrayal.

Sleep had deserted as thanks to being in a deserted station. High speed train action and friends having fun increases the speed of time many folds and this was no exception. The Super to Dadar, Hussain Sagar from the city of Hussain Sagar and the Jayanti Janata from the city of the Virgin Goddess were some of the trains to skip Bhigwan at a high speed. Meanwhile we decided to explore the station. A short walk from the platform brought us to a view that nearly paralyzed us. A lone truck stood along with some  old wagons on a track that didn't seem to have been used for half a decade. The bravest in the group decided to walk some more distance from the track to answer the call of nature only to rush back thanks to the eeriness in the area.

The Pataliputra Express departed Kopargaon, our scheduled destination by that train at half past one, as we sat freezing on the platform watching the Siddheshwar Express loop into the station. Two long dozen minutes later, we pulled into Daund, hungry and tired. Hot Vadapavs and a few lays packets filled our stomachs temporarily as the wait for the passenger from Pune continued. Three hours past midnight and ten minutes past its scheduled departure, the train lazily pulled into Daund. At thirty minutes past three, it departed with about hundred sleepy passengers and one excited railfan who was experiencing his first journey behind a WDG4D class locomotive, although the lead loco was a WDM3A.

It was the season where the nipping chillness begins a few hours before dawn. Since we had planned to reach Shirdi before the advent of the biting cold, we hadn’t carried any woolens. However, thanks to Babaji ka Thullu at Daund on board the Chennai bound express, we had to be in a train travelling at a high speed through the high plateaus during the coldest hours of the day, or should I say night. Of course, the weather that forced the passengers with woolens to stay in the train didn’t prevent the railfan in me to alight and capture a crossing with a freighter at a station. My body was freezing as a loose cotton Tee and tracks were all that covered my torso and legs when the temperature was 10 degree Celsius.

Our train reached Puntamba Jn at eight in the morning as we took a share auto to Shirdi, reaching the holy town at half past eight. The darshan was peaceful and so was the return by a Volvo to Pune but the experience of the journey to Shirdi will remain one that is cherished and consternated for a lifetime for the four of us.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Mental Wreck on a Physical Trek

                One, two, three, four, five..... That was a penta header, my first spotting of one, rather five locos together. The two ALCos at the helm of our train along with a couple at the tail braked as Amaravathi came to a halt. Sonalium, it was, the place from where the trek up the Braganza was set to begin.
                The dream location for every railfan was a trek of one thirds a dozen kilometres away. The ocean of milk, no, not the Milky Way galaxy, the Dudhsagar was our destination. The route is not one where trains whiz past every minute like the suburbs of Chennai or Mumbai. It is a serene route through the Braganza ghats in Goa. All this description is to assert that it is absolutely safe to walk on the railway tracks here unless a snake or a scorpion decides to join the leech in giving you a welcome into their territory.
                The trek began on an enthusiastic note. However I was soon left behind by the others, partly because I wanted to enjoy the scenery surrounding me, more so as I was the fattest in the trio. Wandering in a forest a thousand kilometres from home that I was, the thoughts in my mind were wandering thousands of kilometres around the world. With my college life all set to begin a week later, reminiscence of school life took over. There was an envelope of gloom with the clouds covering the sky and my heart was no different. It was not because I was going to miss my school days. It was because my friends had left me behind, not in the trek, but in life. While my classmates had qualified for IITs and NITs, I was going to join just another university in Chennai. The first quarter of my life was over and I was in wilderness. The jungle surrounding me confirmed my scenario. The only difference between my short trek and the long run was that in the former, I knew my destination while in the latter, I was clueless. The similarity was that I was just going forward in the path ahead, not knowing what lay in store, en route.
                I soon caught up with my friends, not because I ran quickly, but because they waited for me. We had covered a half and two kilometres. The view point for the Dudhsagar had been reached. It was the first week of July and water was gushing in Dudhsagar, covering the entire breadth of the cascade. The sight was a dream that had finally come true. Or did it? My reverie was broken by a swear by my friend. My eyes popped in wonder. It was not the Dudhsagar. Fear not, as we had not reached the Jog Falls or the Niagara. It was the Dudhsagar but a trickle was all that remained. It was not the furious gush that tourists enjoyed during July. The Dudhsagar was a mere Dudh Nala (canal).
                A few arguments and slangs later, my first sign of victory that day emerged as I could convince my friends to stay at the view point in wait of a train. My luck was not as bad as I had cursed it to be as within a couple of minutes the honk of a loco was heard. The icing on the cake was that an imported yellow WDG4 was one of the two locos that hauled the freighter. Seven full minutes after it came to our view at the falls, the entire rake had finished crossing us, a good two kilometres away by track.

                As soon as the train had crossed, continued the trek that we did. This time, thank to the dark deadly tunnels that we had to cross, my friends had decided to slow down. However these tunnels were not going to slow me in any way. I was already walking at the speed my friends were walking after slowing down. As we neared the falls, we were blessed with showers. Although the rain did add to the beauty of the cascade, the fact that, for the first time since I was born, Dudhsagar was not at its raging best during the first week of July. I suppose all the swearing at my luck was indeed valid.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Monotonous Monday Morning !!

My eyes opened up only because my ears opened up to a screech. It was the damned alarm in my phone. A look at the clock told me many Shatabdis across India would have just departed. The time was 0602 hours. An internal surge gave the urge to purge and made me trudge to the washroom with grudge. The first call in the morning was as usual, from mother nature. The next was from mummy asking if my tummy wanted some milk. A sleepy yes and my eyes were looking for my phone. Centuries are reached within minutes in whatsapp when you are members of railfan groups. A sleepy scroll and  "GM" sent to all groups ended my morning tryst with whatsapp. School days are history and college days are mystery but my hand still gropes for a book in Chemistry.

A realization that it is a monday dawns well after dawn when mom hands out the list of jobs to be attended. Giving me a some jobs to attend means an extra job is on the cards. Since I would require the scooter to complete the tasks, I would have to drop mom at her school as well. The rush begins at 0845 hours. Dad is all set to kick the bike and I was already a kilometre ahead with mom. The return wasn't as peaceful. People generally say a cat crossing the in your route won't augur well. It turned out to be a dog this time. Irritation levels reach their zenith when you are forced to brake from 60 kmph to nil just to avoid hitting a wandering stray, thereby risking your life and those of the people trailing you. The traffic was in the reverse direction and thus the consequences were minimal as the need to accelerate all over again was the only frustration. Oops, i spoke too soon. My dad was crossing in the opposite direction and had heard me swearing at that bitch, or was it a dog. Well its gender doesn't matter here, my dad's frown does. Some scoldings were to be received in the evening.

It was just in the nick of time did I realize that I had to go the bank. A quick turn and I reached in time to get the first token of the day. My luck is never generally good with banking and it was no exception that day. A small work which was to end in a couple of minutes took a couple of dozens of minutes to end thanks to the computer getting hanged.

The next job was to pay the mobile bills at the telephone exchange and reaching there by 0928 hours, I knew my day wasn't going to be good. Bills could be paid only from 1030 hours. I decided to finish the final job of the morning which I knew, would take enough time for me to pay the bills enroute home. It was to pay the insurance for the scooter at Ramkay Services which was about a kilometre away. The officer there was good enough to cancel both my jobs for the morning. He wanted me to produce certain documents proving that I was the owner of the vehicle. The vehicle was in my mom's name and all the so-called proofs and documents were with my mom. It was 0950 when I knew nothing was to go right that day.

I decided to take a detour back home via the school I studied in more than 800 days ago. It wasn't much of nostalgia but just a hope of getting a glimpse. The kids were monotonously repeating what the teachers said and I began to pity the people living in the neighbourhood. It was around 1010 hours when I absentmindedly knocked on the doors of an empty house, forgetting that I had the key.

The monotonous monday morning seemed more monotonous than a monotone.


Friday, 16 May 2014

25 Hours and 50 Trains : The trip of my life

26th April 2013 

Time : 2100 hours 

Three of the seven people were ready at Chennai Central. Four more to come and an hour and a half for our train to depart. Aadithya soon came and I and Sri were off with him to capture the Yeswantpur Kamakhya AC Express that was late by a huge margin. The surprise package involved was that a Bhusaval WAM4 #21211 was its power from Chennai to Durgapur. It isn't everyday that you get to see a WAM4 based at Bhusaval at Chennai and our excitement levels were high. Southern Railways' section controllers were not interested in sending a late running train ahead of 12621 Tamilnadu Express and thus it was made to wait. TN departed at 2200 hours with WAP4 #22662, based at Erode, at its helm. The announcement for the impending Rajdhani was on and just as the last coach of TN exited the platform, 12434 Rajdhani Express entered with WAP7 #30318 based at Lallaguda as its power. Now our focus was once again on the AC Express. My brain hoped for a parallel departure with Coimbatore bound Cheran Express but again it was Cheran which got the proceed at 2210 hours. The AC Express finally departed at 2220 hours and the Coimbatore weekly at 2230 hours. We got the starter at 2240 hours before which, I and Aadithya ran from the fag end of the platform till the entrance of Central to get dinner for the missing trio of Sivakumar G, Parsuwanath J and Rajesh V sir. Their EMU had been delayed badly and they barely managed to enter our train at 2235 hours with 5 minutes left for the departure. Well, if you had not guessed by the departure time, we were travelling by Erode bound Yercaud Express to Jolarpettai and it was another WAP4 #22259 based at Erode that was our power. 

27th April 2014

0048 hours. 

Our train had reached Walajah Road and to our surprise the mainline was given a proceed. This meant we were to be overtaken by 12657 Bangalore Mail. Soon enough, the usual blare of WAP7 was heard and the Mail rushed past at MPS. Our bogie had a flat wheel and my berth was right on the wheel which meant my sleep was as good as dead, for the night. We were looped again. This time it was for an overtake by Chennai Yeswantpur Weekly Express. Four of us alighted to capture the overtake from the platform. The TTE wanted someone else to join us on the platform. It was a ticketless traveller who had boarded the train. He was drunk and his choice of words towards the TTE made us gasp. I bet I heard every abusive word in Tamil I know. To our agony, he decided to vent his anger on the train and decided to throw something on it. He was so clever that by the time he realized that he could throw stones on our train, we were inside the coach. I was a little late in understanding the situation and thus, the last to board the train. The TTE was all set to bang the door as soon as I entered but to my luck, the knob on the door entered by pant pocket and got stuck. The people around thought that the drunkard was pulling me and they pulled me inside. Thankfully, I could explain to them that it was the knob which caught my pant and saved an embarrassment. Barely had I got in when it struck to the drunkard about the stones and he started throwing them on the train. The so-called Railway Protection Force who had prevented us from standing near the door even when the door was closed, were nowhere to be seen now. Even the signalman came to us on the other side and asked where they RPFs were. The stone pelting spree continued until the Yeswantpur bound express thrashed the station. The drunkard had been throwing stones from the mainline and I guess he backed off as soon as he spotted this train. Thanks to him, all our hopes of a good video was spoilt and we could not even enjoy the overtake as the other passengers started waking up and asking us what had happened. Some people were of the opinion that we were the trouble makers.

We reached Jolarpettai on time. Tickets were booked for the journey to Gudiyattam by Yelagiri Express. Narayanan Kailas from Bangalore joined us, reaching Jolarpettai by Kaveri Express and Rajesh sir bid farewell. The two CBC biggies, Thiruvananthapuram Chennai Mail and Mangalore Chennai Superfast who skip Jolarpettai were the next big fishes to catch. Surprisingly, it was the Mangalore Express which skipped Jolarpettai first. Hardly two minutes later, the Thiruvananthapuram Mail entered Jolarpettai but came to a screeching halt as the former had not gone a far distance. It was quite disappointing for everybody. We departed soon after the Mail and reached our final destination, Gudiyattam.

Time 0750 Hours

I, Aadithya and Sri decided to explore the curve which we thought was a kilometre from the railway station towards Jolarpettai. The seniors were not interested but grudgingly allowed us to do so. We didn’t carry any water bottles with us which proved to be a grave mistake. Walking on a foot wide path adjacent to the railway track and switching sides every 200 metres, we finally reached that curve after nearly 45 minutes. Going by the distance boards, we had walked 2 kilometres. It would have been faster if we had stuck to one side of the track instead of crisscrossing it half a dozen times. When we finally reached a location about 50 metres from the track with the curve in sight, the view was magnificent. We could view the Gudiyattam home signal which ensured that we do not miss any train bound for Katpadi and beyond. The honk of the trains bound for Jolarpettai and beyond at the station 2 kilometres yonder ensured the same. The main trains like the Coimbatore bound Shatabdi, the Chennai bound Shatabdi, the Chennai bound AC Express and the Bangalore bound Double Decker were captured in great style. Double Decker was hauled by WAP7 #30357 of Royapuram shed. Parsuwanath had joined us meanwhile but his entry wasn’t welcoming to us as he didn’t have water with him. Well he did have a bottle with barely half a mouthful of water left which we shared. Soon after the Double Decker, we started trekking back to the station. This time we walked along the path till the home signal. The path ended there and we crossed the tracks to the path on the other side. The home signal showed proceed and I knew Lalbagh was just round the corner. The path was very close to the tracks and a high speed train could throw me off the mound if not crush me under its wheels. I just skidded down the balancing by slightly sitting. Thankfully my pant wasn’t torn. This path was strewn with thorns and thorny plants and my leg was quite hurt. There were another seven hundred metres to go. It might not seem a long distance but when your tongue is parched and legs are dead, it is, by any means, horrible. A honk was heard and Lalbagh raced towards Chennai. The slow trudge back to the station continued. Aadithya and Sri, thanks to being thin, were slightly ahead. Parsuwanath had started quite late and was trailing me. There was no strength left in anyone to call the other. In about 10 minutes, all of us reached the shop near the station that unfortunately had only 2 litres of water. We nearly gulped down the liquid and despite exceeding my share with Aadithya, my thirst was not appeased. I could have easily drunk another litre, given the level of dehydration due to sweat.

We reached the others in the station who, in the meanwhile, had taken a nap. However, they had bought Puri and Kuruma for us which we ate greedily. The regular trains zipped past in both directions. It was around 1200 hours when we felt the pangs of boredom. Most of the usual trains in both the directions were gone. There wasn’t any train we expected till the two Durontos, the Yeswantpur – Howrah and its counterpart. A few freights thundered past, a few crawled. The sun took its toll on our body and it only added to our boredom. Efforts to kill the boredom like playing cricket with bottle and pebbles didn’t seem to produce the desired effect. To add to our misery, the Yeswantpur bound Duronto which generally runs well before time was an hour and 55 minutes late. Pangs of hunger were satiated with snacks, of which we had a good stock.

The boredom was finally destroyed by the shock at 1418 hours. The signals signalled the arrival of some train within a couple of minutes. We were expecting the Howrah bound Duronto from Yeswantpur to rampage through the station. Surprisingly, it was a 12 hour 40 minutes late running Kerala Express bound for New Delhi, hauled by a WAP4 from Lallaguda shed, numbered 22592. It took a while for us to reconcile to the fact that it was indeed the Kerala Express. The realisation dawned upon us a few minutes later. The Kerala express bound for Thiruvananthapuram a few days back, had been diverted due to an accident near Nellore and had arrived nearly 20 hours late. The train had departed nearly 14 hours late and had made up about 2 hours. It was a total surprise and that was enough to make us rejoice. Within a couple of minutes, the Duronto bound for Howrah chased Kerala Express to Katpadi. An overtake at Katpadi seemed on the cards. This brought about another discussion. Kerala Express and Duronto take different routes beyond Katpadi but meet again at Renigunta to follow the same route up to Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. However, between Katpadi and Renigunta, the Duronto takes the route to Arakkonam and then the Melpakkam bypass to reach Renigunta via Venkatanarasimharajuvaripeta while Kerala Express reaches Renigunta via Tirupati. The discussion lasted about twenty minutes but no conclusion was made.

The Howrah bound Duronto had passed at 1425 hours. The Yeswantpur bound Duronto finally crossed at 1435 hours. If only it had been ten minutes earlier, we would have witnessed a terrific crossing. Our luck was low and this was all we got. The last train we witnessed was the Santragacchi bound Vivek express from Mangalore. This train caused quite a furore as Aadithya didn’t know about such a train from his favourite town and Narayanan wasn’t sure about its run that day. All doubts were thrown apart when it finally crossed at 1537 hours to be closely followed by our train back to Katpadi, the passenger bound for Arakkonam from Bangalore. It was hauled by a WAM4 of AJJ shed, numbered 21233 and the surprise. The surprise was a dead WAG7 from Ludhiana shed in Punjab, numbered 27670. We bid good bye to Narayanan who was to return to Bangalore by the Intercity which was expected in a few minutes. All the exertion now broke loose as I slept through the twenty five kilometres to Katpadi Junction. I was woken up at Katpadi by the others and two hours of whiling away the time followed. The notable train we spotted was the Jayanti Janata Express to Kanyakumari from Mumbai on the huge Katpadi curve.

As time drew close for the arrival of Brindavan which would transport us to Chennai, debates began on whether the Premium Special Express to Patna from Bangalore Cantonment would overtake our train or not and if so, where. We all agreed that the overtake would be at Walajah Road where we had a halt. The express bound for Dhanbad in Jharkhand from Alappey in Kerala arrived. The starter was given well before the loco stopped. The train departed in a couple of minutes. The next in line was our Brindavan. Our train entered Katpadi bang on time with the same loco that hauled the Double Decker to Bangalore in the morning. In case you scrolled back till the point where the link to Double Decker was given, you are appreciated as a hardcore Railfan. Brindavan was badly and madly crowded. I and Aadithya ran through the crowd thronging the platform, closely followed by the others. Just as we were about to board the train, a glance to check if the others had followed us showed me that the starter was yet to be given. A small doubt crept across. When a good for nothing train like the Alappey Dhanbad Express that was undoubtedly going to get overtaken by us before Chennai was given a starter well before the loco even crossed half the platform, why not Brindavan, a full minute after its stop. The doubt was destroyed by the crowd as we depended on Parsuwanath’s height and build to force the illegal occupants of our seats to be chucked out. None of us had a window seat. In my row, the window seat occupant was as much a stranger to me as I was to some street urchin of Cambodia. Parsuwanath sat in the middle with me at the aisle. A flash of light passed and the doubt which had crept in just before boarding the train, hit me in full throttle. What if the Premium overtook us at Katpadi itself? The streak of light made me realise that it was indeed the Premium that was all set to overtake us at a high speed. I jumped across to the window, landing on Parsuwanath and keeping the camera on the window sill. Half a second is all my camera requires, to start a video but that delay was enough to miss the loco of the Premium. The rest of the train was covered in the video though. Since nobody else had anticipated the overtake at Katpadi, I was the only one to get a video. Thankfully, both Parsuwanath and the stranger forgave me for landing on them without a prior notice.

We departed soon but were stopped, after a good run, in the middle of nowhere. After nearly twenty minutes, we skipped the station at whose home signal we had been put up. The Dhanbad bound express was overtaken here. A good ensued and ensured we reach Arakkonam nearly on time. We had a parallel entry into Arakkonam with Sapthagiri Express bound for Chennai from Tirupati. We were given the starter and thanks to procuring the window seat from the stranger with the request of all of us sitting together, I dozed off again. When I woke up we had reached Basin Bridge Junction and it was a matter of two kilometres to reach our destination. We entered Chennai Central at 2125 hours. The Premium which had overtaken us was nowhere to be seen. So the Chennai guys were quick to change the loco and send it. We bade goodbye to each other. My dad had promised to be at Central to pick me up. He called me up to tell that he was waiting beyond the Southern Railway Head Quarters as the confusion at the parking zone at Central was too high. Overcome by fatigue, I trudged along the Poonamalee High Road for about half a kilometre when I finally saw them. I don’t generally sleep during a car journey but this time, I was tired beyond imagination. The only thing I did before hitting the bed at home was a text message to Sivakumar G that I had reached home safely. Within seconds of reaching home, the bed was hit and sleep was all that gave me happiness.