Sunday, October 10, 2010

(Sequel to the Cardex Cardiacs)

After all the trouble taken to book the tickets and all the trouble taken to wait in anticipation for more than two long months to embark on the first ever trip on the Brindavan, the day did not dawn – we were up even as it was dark. After finishing the morning chores, filling up water containers (not sure if they were glass bottles or stainless steel koojas, as they call them in Tamil), checking out on the luggage and the tickets, we were out at a rather bright time in Madras – around 0645 hrs. Boarding a taxi, we reached Madras Central (MAS) in about 15 minutes from Perambur. We headed to PF 1, where the most prestigious trains were parked for departure those days, and quickly settled into our seats in what I think was coach ‘C’. Coach identifiers those days were only alphabets; I think one or two of the later letters like S and T were for the upper class coaches, A through R was for the Second Class coaches of those days.

The seats were wooden, three by three separated by an aisle. The capacity was even then 108 seats to the coach, with a door after the first 48. The wooden seats were punctured with holes forming a pattern of a large SR on the backrests – were these patterns made on the seats also, I cannot recollect. Large coir carpets welcomed us into each coach – yes, they were placed at every vestibule, to overcome the uneven nature of the footplate of one coach overlapping the other!

We had two window seats facing each other and one middle seat – dad was not travelling with us. He would come down towards the last week of May, which was to be our last week of travel, make a quick dash to Bijapur (BJP) to his sasuraal, accompany us back to Hubli (UBL) and then to MAS. The scheduled departure was 0800; the Coromandel was scheduled to depart 0810 from PF 2, as I hazily remember – it could also have been the other way.
As we bade good-bye to our dad and the numerous other senders-off (most of them for seeing the unique green and yellow liveried train, rather than sending off their relatives), the engine started pulling out the train. I must confess I do not remember whether it was a steam or a diesel; chances were we could have been hauled by a steam loco. We quickly picked up speed as we passed Basin Bridge (BBQ) and braked for moving into the main line at the Veysarpadi (VPY) cabin. As we merged with the mainline, the train picked up speed and passed the Perambur (PER) station in about a couple of minutes.

As we passed PER, a huge rustling noise caught our attention. It was the sound of the Pantry Car shutters opening. As soon as the door opened, calls of ‘kaapi, kaapi’, ‘chaai, chaaya’ and ‘idly vada’ rent the air. People started loosening their purse strings and had their first gulp of tea / coffee. Served in disposable plastic (rather thick for a disposable) cup, the coffee was very good – at least I remember it to be very good. It was a fight between my sister and me to throw out the third cup through the window – we had thrown out our own cups; mother’s cup was to be done. We arrived at a compromise – my sister would get the first turn to throw out mom’s cup; I would get my turn when we had our second cup later in the day.

I remember crossing Arakkonam (AJJ) in about an hour and, rushing past at about 30 kmph, there were many surprised souls in the train, some even wondering aloud about the non-stop run at AJJ. We blasted past stations one by one – the tracks were so well maintained that I do not recollect today any caution orders that slowed us down. We reached Katpadi (KPD) at what I remember as around 0950, and started in about a couple of minutes. We picked up speed as we joined the main line and again started blasting past stations like Ambur and Vaniyambadi at mps.  It was around 1100 when we screeched to a halt at Jolarpettai (JTJ). The brief two minute halt was stretched to five minutes – not many bothered, though. This was a chance to take a small walk to stretch the idle limbs out on the platform. Adjacent to my coach, steel trays, covered with newspapers were being loaded – these contained fresh, crispy, golden brown medu vadas, dal vadas, packets of tamarind rice, sambar rice, lemon rice and curd rice (I am not using the word ‘bath’ or ‘bhath’ for the rice, chastened by the need for a clarification for the uninitiated on whether people actually take a bath in tamarind and the like J). 

We must have left around 1106 or 1107, and quickly took the huge right curve, veering away from the line towards Salem. We crossed the JTJ link cabin in good speed, and blasted past Somanayakanpatti. We then braked hard to slow down to about 30 (or could even have been 45) as we crossed the home signal at Patchur. Here, I cannot but help sympathise at the status of Brindavan these days – even a thought of a stoppage at Patchur would be considered blasphemy – the controller, had it been a dictatorial regime, would be summarily hanged without explanation! Now, even a hilarious talk of a halt at Patchur for the Brindavan does not elicit as much as a snigger – it sparks off a thread of about twenty mails on the mailing list (yours truly included).

We exited the ghats and blasted past Kuppam, Bangarpet and many more ‘wayside’ stations and slowed down a bit only when we reached Baiyappanahalli; we reached the third stop of the day, Bangalore Cantonment (BNC) at 1240. A quick two minutes later, we began snaking our way on the curves past the trackside bungalows – don’t bother to see them these days, they are all multi-storeyed apartments – and pulled into a curvy Platform 1 at Bangalore City at about 1250. On time? No way, we were before time by at least 10 minutes; if our departure, which I speculated to have been at 0800 was right. If our departure had been 0810, then we were in at least 20 minutes before time. To think that we start threads if the Shatabdi these days arrives five minutes before time!

We alighted to be surprised at the fact that not one soul on PF1 made a beeline for the coaches – each one heeded the announcement that the coaches were being cleaned and passengers had to wait for clearance to enter. Amazing! We then made out way past the crowd, deposited our entire locked luggage in the cloak room and exited the station building. We took a right turn, walked past Hotel Pavana (?) and entered the Krishna Vilas for a sumptuous meal, before we would go sightseeing. 

We would continue our journey by the SBC-Miraj (MRJ) Mail/Passenger – that has to wait for some more time. Meanwhile, a request for confirmation of the timings in the report above – those having TTs of early 1970s, please correct me. Thanks for the reading.


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