I love to travel by train. Of course, I have to have a seat by the window, I should not have to haggle with co-passengers for a luggage space, food is served during travel and train has a clean toilet. So with a great hope and expectation, I boarded executive class of Delhi – Lucknow Shatabdi express on the penultimate day of 2017. I had hoped to look through the wide window, while sipping hot coffee and enjoying snacks, as the country side flew by.
Train started on time. Lo and behold, dense fog covered countryside. Instead of travelling at 60 mile per hour, we were travelling at half the speed. We arrived at our first station, Ghaziabad, 30 min late. As we moved along haze covered countryside, often simply standing on the track, we were getting late by the hour.
At Aligarh station around 11 am, like a weary traveller Howrah-Delhi-Kalka mail entered the station, running late by nearly 18 hours. In my mind I had an image of Kalka mail from my childhood days. In those days, Kalka mail used to be a premier train. Travellers were prepared to face any hardship to get a seat on this train. Not only very punctual, travel time from Kanpur to Howrah used to be less by Kalka mail, compared to other trains. With time, Rajdhanis and Durontos have replaced Kalka mail from its premier position. Now the train looks awful in its blue coloured coaches with small pigeon hole type windos. Train runs slow and is often out of schedule. But why blame Kalka mail alone? This journey we saw many premier Duronto’s, Rajdhani’s and Shatabdi’s falling way behind their scheduled arrival time.
By the time we reached Kanpur, it was 3.30 pm. We were running late by four hours. Sun that came out at some point, was beginning to be covered by fog. Hungry and tired we moved on towards Lucknow. We had our scheduled breakfast. No meal was expected to be served as we were to arrive in Lucknow by 12.30 in the noon. It was indeed a relief, when hot rice and dal were offered by railways after Kanpur. We reached Lucknow five hours late at 5.30 pm.
We spent a sunny day in Lucknow. That is another story. Return journey, on the first of Jan, 2018 was even more eventful. Departure was delayed by six hours. We started at 9.30 pm in the evening, instead of 3.30 pm in the afternoon. We reached New Delhi at 11 am in the morning, nearly 12 hour late. Train was half empty. Passengers could stretch out on the seats and sleep at night. Not much breakfast in the morning. It was not part of plan. Relieved when disembarked in New Delhi. Some start to New Year!