Five full nights on the move along the IR network and a couple of them almost sleepless left us longing for more rest. However, assuming you would have read my earlier blogs, visiting the washroom prior to sunrise is an unwritten law in my book of rail travel. Added to that early morning freshness and cruising past the green fields and the forests of MP is reason enough to be up and enjoy the high speed run. Early morning tea was quickly dispensed with and I realized that we were slightly behind schedule by may be a quarter to half an hour and our P7 was in no mood to extend the delay and was on a rampage towards its next destination, Nagpur, the land of Oranges.
The LGD P7 had a mindless run and quickly traversed the two ghat sections enroute with minimal fuss. By the time we reached Kalmeshwar, a good 20-30 kilometers before Nagpur, we had completely made up the delay and was running close to 30 minutes ahead of schedule. A scheduled arrival of around 10:15 AM at Nagpur now seems like 9:45 – 10:00 AM arrival and it excited us as we would have a good 30-45 minutes stop and would allow us to enjoy some proper breakfast. Needless to harp on again, the pathetic mini breakfast delight was instantly gobbled and left us not wanting for more, but the body needed more and a 30 min break at Nagpur seemed perfect. After a customary hold and crawl and switching points, we did indeed reach Nagpur around 9:55 AM and had a solid 30 minutes to self indulge in some good food. I stepped out of the station, got a quick bite breakfast and much better tea this time around and back in time to ensure that I do not leave the RAJ stranded without my esteemed presence. I was welcomed in my coach with fresh fragrance of oranges. A perfect flavor and the perfect combination of sweet & sour concoction left us in no doubt about the “Nagpur Oranges” claim.
The Nagpur-Balharshah section is the one we have been waiting for mainly for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is to have a look at the great Sewagram curve once again and second, high speed MPS encounters with all of the southern heavyweights including the GT, TN, AP, KSK and RAJ and a much awaited OT of the legendary AP express. Needless the say, the entire section was on doorplate mode. A word of caution here. Door plating on the RAJ at MPS is not something to be taken lightly and shooting videos and photos of trains at MPS while door plating is, in no uncertain terms, not recommended. Even if you do, take care and do not do something stupid. There is no such thing as safe door plating. Well, warnings apart, the RAJ did a great job and we had a scintillating couple of hours of unadulterated adrenaline blast as we moved past the Sewagram curve, heavyweight encounters, AP express overtake and finally reached Balharshah after a breathless run from Nagpur in a exactly 2 hrs and 15 minutes. RAJ took a well deserved rest and the SCR crew took the reins of our RAJ from Balharshah. The only blip in this section was our failed wish to meet the Nizamuddin bound Bangalore RAJ at MPS. Our counterpart was waiting for us at Balharshah and bid us goodbye just as we came to rest. Now that we have settled down back in our seats for the next section, we suddenly realized the nightmare that we had entirely forgotten, LUNCH !!!
The next 30 minutes was hectic and our prayers were unanswered. We were served lunch. We prayed again and quickly gobbled up the disaster. We chewed the pieces by hand and swallowed them quickly like a medicine and washed it quickly with bottled water and spared us from the lingering taste and fragrance of this delightful cuisine. It was then that we made the most sensible decision of our lives. I live to eat and I cannot tolerate this Rajdhani crap which they serve as food. The Raj has a scheduled arrival of 18:35 at Secunderabad and we had a good 5.5 hrs to cover that 350 kms of FEDL section and it essentially means an early arrival and coupled with a loco change and crew change we should easily have around 30 mins to hunt for food at Secunderabad. With this decided, my travel mate’s always on the charge mobile starts ringing and after a good hmms and ok’s and fine’s later, I was informed that we have a few fellow rail enthusiasts meeting us at Secunderabad. I have always held Hyderabadi Biriyani as one of the finest foods, Hyderabad has to offer and it was a no brainer when I asked my always on the charge travel mate to call them back and asked them to get us our load of the finest Biriyani Hyderabad has to offer and pamper us with some Karachi Biscuits. With dinner plans settled and excitement sky high a short and simple nap is all that is needed. After all we expect an early arrival at Hyderabad and decided to save some of our energy for the evening. However, we missed one small detail about SCR which would certainly make arriving Secunderabad ahead of schedule almost an impossible feat to achieve.
After our short nap, a second round of door plating showed us what SCR is made of. High speed run, sudden braking and deceleration, branching off to loop line, cruise, branch off to the main line, accelerate, high speed run, sudden braking and deceleration and this turned out to be a pattern almost at every alternate station. Yes, welcome to SCR as the freights on the mainline look at you mockingly while they let you overtake over the loop albeit at a crawling pace. In spite of all this, we still managed to reach Secunderabad outer a good 40 minutes ahead of schedule and were made to wait endlessly. By the time the malfunctioning railway level crossing was closed and we entered PF10 of Secunderabad Station, we were bang on time.
It is always delightful to meet friends old and new en route a rail trip. We met a group of rail enthusiasts and had a great time discussing our recent trip and plans for next meetup and get together. 20 minutes passed in the blink of an eye as our train honked restlessly for its departure. Quick byes, couple of hasty group shots later, we boarded back onto our train for the final leg of our trip. As the train slowly departed, a friend of ours suddenly realized the mistake and quickly handed over the goodies for our dinner. They were caring enough to even get us some paper plates. Well, that was a bit too much of a stretch. The restaurant did not have enough change. For the first time ever in the history of my rail trips in India and more so in this rail trip, I was so eagerly looking forward for my dinner.
Our pantry ringmaster started his circus. As usual he started off his passenger’s ordeal with his dinner service. Reluctant passengers helplessly started their dinner with the most sincere prayers from their hearts. Superiority complexity swooned over us as we dismissed those pantry guys nonchalantly to just ignore us and punish the rest. For the next 20 minutes, we had no eye contact with anyone. There was not a word spoken. The aroma of freshly prepared Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani slowly engulfed the coach giving a welcome relief to the rest of the passengers as it overwhelmed the under cooked and the horrendous taste and aroma of the Raj cuisine. To be honest, I really felt sorry and bad for the rest of the passengers for having to endure the Raj cuisine and to top it off see 3 of us summarily dismissing off the Raj staff and feasting on some of the best food money can buy. Really, what is the point of all the grind and pain and effort we all put up in our life if we cannot enjoy our food, the real reason why we work our back off. I see my colleagues skip lunch, dinner, breakfast, sleep and everything else all on the pretext of client satisfaction and work ethics and such philosophical crap. You live only once. Live your life. Eat well. Eat on time. Sleep Well. Sleep on time. Spend time with friends and family. Travel. Meet new people. Try new food. See unknown places. Be good. Feel good. Do justice to your work, but not blindly. We all eventually die and our it is important to ensure in our quest & greed for wealth, we do not die a premature death while we live physically. In a corporate world, you are dispensable. You can be replaced. Once you outlive your utility, you are of no use. Be real. Live life. With all that philosophy flowing out of a simple Hyderabadi Biriyani, we decided to retire early and call it a day. There is no more fun in the Raj now as we entered the final and slowest leg of our journey.
After a good night’s rest and a slight delay, Bangalore welcomed us back and we took our own path and bid goodbyes hoping to meet sometime again. Hope you enjoyed reading the series as much as I enjoyed recollecting time.
The Seventh Night : Home Sweet Home.