A Train Journey

by Praveen Chaitali

My family decided to attend my cousin's wedding in Bangalore. Since my sister suffers from motion sickness, we could not travel by car. So we decided to take a train. I was sent to Madras Central Station to book tickets for the journey.

There was a huge crowd in every counter, and I waited my turn patiently. Unfortunately when my turn came, the system was down. I had to wait for another two hours before I could book the tickets. The difficulties of travel by train begin at the stage of ticket booking itself.

We did not want to forget anything while packing. So we made out a check list of the things we had to take with us. We left sufficiently early for the station. Although we had confirmed tickets, we had to squeeze in with others who had no tickets. We asked them to move, but they yelled at us, and asked why we could not be more accommodative.

There was another family in the same compartment, who had come with several suitcases and huge hamper. They opened the hamper, and began to eat the chappattis that they had brought. They were not concerned about the comfort of the other passengers. They littered the floor with chillies and curry leaves. Some people were protesting about the late arrival of a train, by squatting on the tracks.

So our train left one hour behind schedule. When the ticket inspector arrived, he evicted the ticket-less travellers. But in the next station other ticket-less passengers entered the compartment. They made themselves comfortable on seats reserved by us.

It was a hot summer day, and with so many people crowding into the compartment, it was stuffy. One of the passengers offered us a biscuit. I was tempted to take the biscuit. But I remembered the stories about the biscuit bandits that I had read in the papers. These biscuit bandits give unsuspecting passengers biscuits laced with sleeping drugs. When the passenger falls asleep after taking the biscuit, they steal his wallet.

The person offering me the biscuit looked harmless, but I did not want to take risk. Our compartment close to the toilet. The stench emanating from it made me sick. The way to the toilet was blocked by suitcases. There were people sitting on the suitcases. The toilet door would not close properly. As if all this was not enough, vendors got in at every station. They sold everything from bananas to pens. Those who bought the bananas just threw the skin of the fruits on the floor. My father slipped on one of these, and sprained his ankle.

We were all glad when we reached Bangalore. The trip from Chennai to Bangalore is of a short duration. Yet the discomfort of the journey was such that we decided we would return by bus. Railway authorities must take steps to ensure that passengers have a comfortable, trouble free journey. We too, as passengers, must not be indifferent to the convenience of others.

We must travel with as little luggage as possible. We must not litter the floor of the compartments. We must keep the toilets clean. It is only with the co-operation of the public, that the Railway department can do its duty.

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