Friday, September 11, 2015

Hanging by a Thread

The title of this blog is quite apposite for one of the journeys that I had undertaken in November 2014 from a small town of Lonand to Mumbai on board the 11030 Kolhapur-Mumbai Koyna express.  After a successful solo trek to one of the hills near Satara in Maharashtra, I decided to board the Koyna express to return home, in a hope that it wouldn't be crowded as I didn't have the reservation, and had decided to board the unreserved 2nd class carriage (it is always fun and adventurous to travel on 2nd class of the Indian railways as you get to see the real India, the people, the struggle written on the face of every person and the hope and determination of executing their dreams and goals).

After spending a few hours in the small town of Lonand, meeting some interesting people who were very friendly and relishing on some local Maharashtrian spicy food, I decided to move to the railway station way ahead of the scheduled arrival of my train. The scene at the station was not so exciting as it was small with 3 platforms and less train movement, mostly goods trains however, I was lucky to see a train that sped thorugh the station  hauled by a WDP-4 class loco link at about 90 KMPH, a sight which is still fresh in my mind. People slowly started to fill in, and mere 10 minutes before the arrival of the train, the station started straddling with people, all of them going to meet their families and friends due to Diwali festival and it was also a weekend - I knew it was going to be a temerarious ride!

With a delay of just 5 minutes, the train, hauled by a rather strange link, A WDM-3A class loco of Gooty shed however, the regular link is a WDP-4 class loco of Krishnarajapuram shed, pulled into the platform number 1 of Lonand station. Even before the train came to a complete halt, I could see the 14-coach train completely filled in with people, and even the reserved compartments, including a solo air-conditioned chair car coach, were not spared by the unauthorised travellers. There was not an inch available to move onto the train, as all of the doors were occupied by people. With a halt of mere 2 minutes at this station, I made a quick decision to hop onto the train and survive the ride for the next 7 hours hanging at the door with my backpack, as there was no other train bound for Mumbai for the next 7 to 8 hours. Initially, some people objected me and asked me not to board as there was no room whatsoever, where in a compartment with a capacity of about 103 people, there were more than 150 people crampped onto all of those 14 compartments. Thankfully, nobody dared venture onto the roof of the train as it would mean the end of everything for them by being charred to death by 25 KV current upon entering the electric territory.

As I managed to balance myself and seek some 'comfort', I was getting pushed outside by the force of some 10 people standing around me and I thought that this is going to be my final train ride but managed to cohere onto the bars of the door with all my might. The things started to get worst when the train picked up the pace, but on some sharp curves with a speed of about 60 to70 KMPH, I thought my fate had been sealed. Thankfully,this train has a lot of halts enroute, which did allow me disembark off the train to release some tension built in my hands and legs but it was just a temporary relief. Sadly, a lot of travellers with reserved ticket waiting for the train enroute couldn't board and all I could see was their worried and feared faces as the train accelerated out of the stations.....without them!

I was hoping for some relief from the derangement at Pune as this is one of the biggest train stations as I was expecting a lot of people to disembark. A huge chunk of people did get off the train, however to my shock there were even more people waiting to board the train due to weekend. I, however, got a chance to squeez into the 'comfort zone' much to my extrication. The crowd swelled in more than before but the only difference was that I was not hanging at the door but again it was difficult to stand due to chocking like condition as there was not enough room for fresh air. Strangely, a man started asking me some questions in English and I wondered if it was important for him to talk to me in almost gasping conditon, and I affably refused to talk to him.  From outside I was surfeited and drained off energy, however my inner soul was not unamused by an unexpected adventure.

After living through nearly 6 hours in the unsurvivable conditon, I felt souped up as the train was nearing the suburbs of Mumbai. Finally, after almost 7 hours I disembarked from the train much to my relief and of course......alive!

Although I have traveled on super crowded trains countless number of times but this was the best experience, a real adventure, and I loved it!!

Indian railway is my passion since the day I was born and unarguably it is second to none.

Memories relived! I miss travelling on Indian trains very much.

Following are some photos from this trek

Kolhapur bound Maharashtra express with WDM-3A class loco of Pune shed

Yeswantpur (Bangalore) Bound Train Passes Through Picturesque Sahayadri Mountain Range 
Over 100 Years Old Name Slab which Once Served the Meter Gauge Train Line to Miraj. This line has since been moved into oblivion

The Rugged Terrain Landscape of  the Sahayadri Range

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Russia - From My Point of View

       It was a winter night of December 2014 when I told my mom that I would be going to Russia to pursue my PhD, and she asked "Are you crazy"? I replied "No, I am not and I know what I am doing and where I am going". She was visibly upset on hearing about my plans but I managed to convince her and she warily asked me to go ahead with my plans. It was the start! I had heard a lot of negatives about Russia, and the war but I knew non of those were even remotely true and I felt absolutely safe even before moving to Russia. I was all decked up and excited and most importantly I was going to pursue my dream, a dream that I had almost given up once. I also knew that the language of instruction would be Russian and that it wouldn't be easy to learn a new language however, I was determined to over come any challenges, and in fact I took this problem as an opportunity to learn new language and enhance my skills in the field of linguistics. Surprisingly, the Russian language has a lot of words similar to Hindi and Sanskrit, probably borrowed from these languages many years ago. 

      One of the things that has always exasperated me is that a lot of people have a wrong notion about Russia, falsely believing that it is a hostile country or jump to the conclusion without even doing some basic research to find the facts. One such example was one of my relatives who told me some 'horror' stories about Russia and asked me to cancel my trip. With all due respect for his concern about me, Russia was quite inhospitable back in the early 90s however, it is probably the safest country now and of course, extremely friendly. I don't think there is any other country which is so open and friendly to foreigners, especially from India and specially compared with some 'English speaking developed' nations. Upon landing in Moscow, I knew I was in an amazing country!

 The Education System

       The reasons Indian students abnegate from heading to Russia for higher education/research degree are the language barrier, lack of opportunities, and the other reason, as mentioned above, is safety. The latter is just in the minds of the people because Russia would take care of you like you were its citizen, and of course, there is no discrimination whatsoever, and certainly no racial discrimination at all. Sadly, I had experienced racism in India because of my accent but in Russia, I everyday look forward to meet new people, and my friends who are always excited to meet me, too. And if you don't mind learning a new foreign language (Russian) then look no beyond Russia! And as far as opportunities are concerned, Russia offers a lot of opportunities in numerous fields than any other developed nations combined.

     The Russian education system and standards are on par with the international standards, and some Russian universities are amongst the best. The Udmurt State University in Izhevsk, for example, is one of the top classical universities in Russia and has everything that an international university has to offer. The research facilities, the professors, the support staff are amazingly helpful. For me Russia is new the USA, or UK. A lot of students from Asia, especially India, head west for better opportunities and earnings but I guess it's time to look north! 

       Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurt Republic, is located along the Izh river in the Western Urals. Although the city is small as compared with Moscow or Kazan, but it is one of the most beautiful and well organized cities. One of the best things about the city is its people, they are extremely wonderful, very helpful and are always welcoming no matter where you come from.

The Udmurt Republic 

     I had not heard about the Udmurt Republic or Izhevsk before applying to this university, and the only cities I knew were Moscow and St. Petersburg and when I heard about this city (Izhevsk), I had no clue about the pronunciation, tried all possible ways to pronounce the name of the city right but couldn't  until I landed here. One of the first things that comes to our mind when we hear about Izhevsk is the AK 47 automatic rifle as Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of this weapon, was born and raised in Izhevsk. With the population of about 650,000, Izhevsk is the capital and the biggest city of Udmurt Republic. Between 1984 and 1987, the city was called Ustinov, named after the late defense minister Dmitri Ustinov.

     This is one of the most beautiful places in Russia and I feel happy and excited to be here and many thanks to the people of Izhevsk for allowing me to be associated with their culture.

Я люблю Россию! 
Following are some of the pictures from Russia:
The Udmurt State University
The City of Izhevsk
Izhevsk, Udmurt Republic
The Holi celebration in Izhevsk
Sunset over Izh Pond
A Street of Izhevsk with a Tram
Another Sunset
International Moscow Business Centre
The Kremlin and Moscow river


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Into the Unknown

The only thing that is constant is change!  

             I have always been enraptured by the world of biology and since my school days, albeit I was an average students, was quite good in this field. Being an average student, my mom had been of the opinion that no sooner I complete my 10th class, than I shall find any job and settle in. I, however, have had some other ideas and was determined that I am not going to give up so easily as I wanted to continue my studies in the field of science. After scoring a very miserable grade in 10th class, I was lucky enough to be admitted in one of the science colleges in Mumbai (Bombay) and, of course, my friends and family laughed at me for opting for science. After completing 2 years of mandatory junior college, I didn't face much troubles getting into the University of Mumbai for my bachelor's degree in zoology and oceanography. 

             My mom, upon leanring that I am going to complete my graduation, was very happy as up until my 10th class, she has had absolutely no hope from me as far as passing junior college was concerned, let alone getting a graduate tag. After completing my graduation from the University of Mumbai and getting a first class, I went on to pursure my masters degree in biotechnology and molecular oncology from Kannur university in the state of Kerala, India. This was the first time that I went very far from my home for 2 years but I loved it. I learned a lot of things, made new friends, learned a new language (Malayam) which I wouldn't have learned, had I not been out of my comfort zone.
             After passing my masters degree (again with first class), I decided to pursue PhD (doctorate of science) degree abroad and applied to many universities in the UK and other countries. I was again lucky to be accepted by 3 universities in the UK but sadly they didn't give any financial help and I knew I wouldn't be qualified for any scholarship program, if any, considering my poor grades in the school and as a result I was not able to go the UK. I was, however, determined to pursue my research, and while working, I concurrently continued to apply for PhD program abroad. Many universities never replied to my emails, and some that did, had rejection written all over them! But I still didn't give up as I was sanguine enough to get into a PhD program.

….and then came a twist!

          As I was browsing through some university page on Facebook, I came across a comment in which somebody had mentioned about the university in Udmurt Republic. At first I wondered as to where is this place located and then after a few Google searches, I stumbled upon the Udmurt State University website. By this time, I figured out that Udmurt Republic is in Russia and that the university is located in the city of Izhevsk (I had no clue about the pronunciation then)  

          After browsing through the website, I sent an email to the international relationship department with no hope of getting any reply, as most of my queries to other universities have had turned futile.  But after a few days, I was surprised to receive a reply (and this was the first ever positive reply I got in my hundreds of query emails that I had sent to many universities across the world).

         Upon seeing a positive reply, I decided to ‘step on the gas’ and head to Russia!! And after a month, it became clear that my destination is Russia and that I would be finally be pursuing my PhD degree, a dream of my life! Had I not been stumbled upon and scrolled to the ‘comment box’ of that Facebook post, I wouldn’t have been writing this blog from Russia! Russia, an unexpected destination for me! 

The Departure Day

       27th February 2015 would always remain a date that changed a lot of things for me. Once again moving to an unknown place completely out of my comfort zone was very difficult decision for me to take, and especially leaving my mom alone but I knew that if I don't snaffle upon this opportunity, I wouldn't get another. My mom was quite disolated to see me going and didn't know when she would see me again, yet she was very happy about my decision and suppoted me. It was probably the most emotional moment in my life to bid adieu to my mom who was in tears, yet I could see hope in her eyes that things would turn around and change for good for me. 

     As a devouring Indian railway fan, my original plan was to board the Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani express however the last moment rescheduling of my Moscow bound Air India flight forced me to board a flight out of Mumbai, sadly. I boarded an Indigo flight for Delhi and then boarded the Air India AI-155 for Moscow and finally boarded Izhavia airlines from Moscow to Izhevsk. As always, Air India has always been an amazing Indian airlines but this time I wouldn't say that I was totally happy with their service. As expected, the flight got further delayed and departed at 9PM as against 7:55PM. The entire duration of flight was uneventful except for some small turbulences while flying over Pakistan and Afghanistan. Landing in Moscow, too, was smooth despite heavy snow around the airport. 

Leaving Mumbai! On board Indigo airlines bound for Delhi
Moscow bound Air India's Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the background at Delhi IGI Airport
Moscow Domodedovo Airport
             Being all alone in a country where English is not spoken widely and I had absolutely no clue about Rusisan language then, it became a quite a challenge for me. After spending about 8 hours at the airport (whole night), I went to my friend's place in the wee hours of the morning for much needed sleep.

The Yak 42 Experience

            I was very excited about my travel plan from Moscow to Izhevsk as I was going to fly on a Russian made Yakovlev Yak 42 aircraft for the first time. Although a small aircraft, it was more comfortable than Boeing or Airbus and there were no turbulences despite flying through heavy snow. I would absolutely love to fly the Yak 42 again. The flight departed on time from Moscow's Domodeovo airport and landed in Izhevsk 30 minutes before its scheduled arrival. Thus ending my 48 hours journey from Mumbai to Izhevsk.

On Board Izhavia Airlines Yak 42 Aircraft about to Land in Izhevsk, Russia


Saturday, November 15, 2014

An Unplanned Trip

Absolutely unplanned! This is how I would describe my trip to Adarki (110 KM off Pune). Adarki is a very small village located in the Satara district of Maharashtra, on route to Kolhapur. It has one of the sharpest curves (the horseshoe curve) on the Indian railway network and is very famous amongst the rail fans, and it is also a paradise for trekkers as it is surrounded by the Western ghats (the Sahyadri  mountain range). Besides, I wanted to explore the Pune-Miraj meter gauge route that had been closed down after gauge conversion in 1972. The new broad gauge line is laid upon the old MG alignment which is why there are a lot of spectacular curves and steep gradients.

To trek this place, I was told to prepare at least a week prior but I had no plans until I reached there. On one of those mind-numbing weekends (weekends are boring until I embark on an adventure trip), I packed my backpack after abruptly deciding to go on an overnight trip, booked a waitlist second-class ticket on Mumbai-Pune Deccan Queen express and I was all set for an adventure.

As I was about leave my house, I received a text from the Indian railways ticketing system stating that my second-class waitlist ticket has been upgraded to an air conditioned chair car. Oh No!! This was my first reaction. I was totally disappointed and very angry at the auto upgrade system introduced by the Indian railways. Upgrading to a higher class is a bliss for everybody but I hate luxurious travel. Upon reaching the train station, I even thought of asking the ticketing staff to downgrade my ticket to its original class but I figured out that it wouldn't be possible because the train was full.

An AC Chair Car of Mumbai-Pune Deccan Queen Express

The Deccan Queen express is Indian railway's one of the most prestigious trains - first chugged out on June 1st, 1930. It is fast, has a very few stoppages and is clean and well maintained.

Led by a WCAM-3 class locomotive of Kalyan shed, the train departed on time at 5:10PM however, for some reason it was held up for about 5 minutes immediately after departing. The run trough the suburbs of Mumbai was reasonably good with temporary speed restriction enforced, the train didn't even notch up to 90 KMPH for most of the time except at some places where it did cross 100 KMPH mark briefly.

The Deccan Queen Express at Lonavala.
The train was running with a delay of about 30 minutes as a result of couple of long unscheduled stops however, surprisingly it reached its final destination, Pune Jn., mere 7 minutes late, thanks to some high speed  and all clear run between Lonavala and Pune.
From Pune, I boarded a connecting train bound for Satara - a distance of 145 KM. Upon reaching Satara around 2:30AM, I then boarded yet another connecting train bound of Adarki - a distance of 37 KM. For the first time, I traveled on a luggage compartment of a train. There was no light or fan, absolutely dark, deplorable but I loved traveling on it.  I was accompanied by some scally looking guys who were apparently traveling to a nearby village of Lonand. They asked me all sorts of questions ranging from my whereabouts to my family. It didn't affright me at all but lack of sleep was making me stuporous.
I jumped off the train as soon as the train reached Adarki and went to a 'waiting hall' for a much needed sleep.  The station manager was very kind as he turned off the lights and let me sleep for an hour.

Ernakulam (Cochin) bound Purna Express at Satara in the Dead of Night

Adarki Station

Rail Line was Laid after Cutting some Rocky Hillocks. This Broad Gauge Line has been Laid on Meter Gauge Alignment.

This Station Name Board is over 100 Years Old. The Pune-Miraj Route, which was inaugurated circa 1880, was Meter Gauge Until 1972

Led by a WDM-3A Class Loco, Pune Bound Passenger Train Enters Adarki. There are only Four Trains in a Day that Stop Here
Kolahpur bound Maharashtra Express Passes Through the Rock Cuttings.

Jodhpur-Bangalore Express Passes Through Picturesque Adarki.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On Board The Flying Saucer

  The 22625 Chennai-Bangalore AC Double Decker express is nothing less than a 'flying saucer' - a 12 carriage train hauled by a WAP-7 class loco.
     After hustling through the streets of Chennai on a rickshaw early in the morning, we (my mom and I) arrived at Chennai Central station on time to board the Bangalore bound 22625 AC Double Decker express, luckily we didn't face any traffic woes. While entering the station building, I didn't feel anything different at all from entering the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (then Victoria Terminus) in Mumbai. Besides, traveling to Chennai always reminds me of my 2006 trip with my God Father, Jack McKinnon. The AC Double Decker express to Bangalore was not announced and hence I got a few minutes to walk around for some observation. The station was brimming with early morning arrivals from almost all parts of India. The 12624 Trivandrum-Chennai super fast mail had already been arrived, hauled by a WAP-7 class locomotive of Royapuram shed, then a little later came the legendary 12622 New Delhi-Chennai Central Tamil Nadu express, hauled by a WAP-4 class locomotive of Erode shed and many more arrivals and departures. In the meantime, the AC Double Decker express to Bangalore was announced and soon a WDM-2 class loco of TNP shed shunted the train. This was my first trip on AC Double Decker train although my mom had traveled on numerous occasions ever since its inception. From the outside, the train looked quite immense with high speed carriages made by Linke-Hofmann Busch (LHB), however I was not really happy to see the cramped seating arrangements but was not really surprised either because this train has been made for the 'masses'. 
The 22625 Chennai Central-Bangalore AC Double Decker Express
After settling in, I went to check out the loco link and it was, rather surprisingly, a WAP-7 # 30276 class loco of Lallaguda shed. Usually, this train is hauled by a WAP-7 of Royapuram shed.  Interestingly, even though hauled by the high speed locomotive and with high speed carriages (capable of doing 160 KMPH), the train didn't cross the speed of 100 KMPH anywhere between Chennai and Bangalore maybe due to slack time. My mom and I had been allotted seats in the lower deck, one of the seats was a window seat so I didn't hesitate to ask my mom to occupy the middle seat because railfanning and window seat/doorplating goes hand-in-hand!! 

The WAP-7 # 30276 of Lallaguda Shed at the Helm of 22625 Chennai-Bangalore AC Double Decker Express
     At 7:25 AM on the button, the train started and cautiously pulled out of the station while negotiating the On X-Over speed restriction of 20 KM. The acceleration of a WAP-7 class loco was quite impressive, in less than 5 minutes - the train was cruising around 60 KMPH through the suburban stations of Chennai and later maintained the speed of 100 KMPH. This was the second time I traveled on a WAP-7 hauled train, the first time I traveled was on the 12951 Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani express. 

      This train has got a pretty relaxed schedule, covers the distance of 358 KM in 5 Hours 45 Minutes with an average speed of 62.26 KMPH including seven commercial halts. 

Here are some more photographs: 

    The WAP-7 did a splendid job and the train pulled into Bangalore City Junction 5 minutes before time. I'd like thank my railfan crony Nikhil Manohar for printing my flight boarding passes and handing me over at Bangalore Cantt. station at a very short notice. 

On a Flight back to Mumbai: 

Although, I dislike flying because it is absolutely boring, at least for me, but I wanted my mom to come out of the fear of flying, so I canceled the train tickets and immediately booked an evening flight from Bangalore to Mumbai. I was very impressed with new Bangalore International Airport, much bigger and better than the old HAL airport. The Jet Airways flight was very smooth, arrived Mumbai before time but nothing can come even close to the service provided by Air India. Air India always rocks!! 

Climbing to a Cruising Altitude

Flying over Bangalore - Immediately After Taking Off. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

An Alco-Holic Journey

        On Board 15657 Sealdah-Guwahati Kanchanjunga Express - An Alco-Holic Journey

Confusing title again?!? Well..a lot of the diesel locomotives plying on Indian Railways are manufactured by the American Locomotive Company (now defunct) abbreviated Alco. My train, 15657 Sealdah-Guwahati Kanchanjunga express, was also hauled by diesel locomotive made by Alco and hence the title!!

Upon reaching Kolkata, completing half of the journey, I was feeling very excited because I was inching towards my destination, although I was equally enjoying the train rides. The Guwahati bound Kanchanjunga express was scheduled to leave at 6:30 AM but I arrived at the station 2 hours before the train's departure. This was for the first time, in my numerous trips to Kolkata, I was traveling via Sealdah station and I kind of felt that I was in one of train stations in Mumbai because even at 4:30 AM, it was crowded. After meandering around the station building interacting with some locals in my not-so-good Hindi accent, I returned to station as my train was announced and it had, in fact, already pulled into the station (shunted). I wasn’t surprised to see huge crowd waiting to board the unreserved and non-AC sleeper class coaches considering this train has got a large number of stops and is pretty slow, hence frequented by local travelers than end-to-end ones. My coach, again an AC-3 tier class, was right in the middle of the train; adjacent to the only AC-2 tier class. There was some confusion related to coach numbers and as soon as I settled in, I was informed by one of the passengers that I was on wrong coach; this surprised me because I had boarded correct coach# B -2. Later I learned that the railway officials have had changed the coach numbers, replacing B-1 with B-2 and vice versa, at the very last moment. I didn’t understand the logic behind it and it certainly didn’t  make any sense to me, and for that matter to other passengers, as well.

An AC-3 Tier Coach of Sealdah-Guwahati Kanchanjunga Express
I was skeptical about the on time departure of the train due to all of the confusions but I felt assuaged upon seeing the starter signal’s aspect changed to Yellow from Red and that the train did leave on time. A very few passengers boarded my coach but I knew that it would fill up at Barddhaman Junction. I was lucky that I got an opportunity to check out the train's loco link, it was hauled by a WDM-3A #14020 (An Alco diesel) class loco of Barddhaman shed.  My co-passengers were from different parts of India and one of the families was from my mom’s hometown in Kutch, Gujarat. I didn’t even remotely think that I was going to travel with a Gujarati family on a train bound for Guwahati from Kolkata!
Usually, I avoid the early morning starts and one of the reasons I avoid it is because I feel very stuporous and, as a result, cannot really enjoy the train journey but I did not have other options this time. After negotiating the speed restrictions, the train struggled to maintain speed and it didn't even cross 60 KMPH mark albeit it was rolling over the high speed HB Chord line, hence we reached Barddhaman Jn. 20 minutes behind schedule. I saw a huge crowd was getting ready to barge onto the train but I was hoping and praying that they shouldn't board the AC coach but the God had some other plans!! Although I knew that a lot passengers would board the train but I certainly didn’t anticipate the unauthorized ill-mannered people boarding AC class coaches. I was told that this was a regular feature and nothing much could be done about it. This, however, really beleaguered me because they had completely blocked both the doors with their baggage and I couldn’t open it an inch, so I asked them to vacate the place and move to unreserved coaches because they were not bona-fide passengers. Besides, I conscientiously spent a lot of time at the door on any train journey, and this was no different albeit I was tired and feeling sleepy, so it didn't matter to me who they were, I shooed some of them away! It was very cold outside with temperature as low as 8 Degrees Celsius but I was enjoying the cold wind impinging on my face as the train started to gain speed and got diverted on a non-electrified route bound for Guwahati from high speed HB Chord line. Still some people standing right behind me unmannerly squalled at me asking me to shut the door……but I did not listen to them! I think they swore at me in Bengali, too but I didn’t understand and I continued to be at the door. I would have shut the door, had they been a little genteel but they seemed roughnecks, so I totally ignored them.
A little over an hour into the journey, the train came to a sudden unscheduled halt at a remote station named Bataspur. Upon inquiring, I learned that a freight train had been stuck due to loco failure on the same line and that an indefinite delay was imminent - not a big deal if you travel on any Guwahati bound train! This, however, was, for a change, a blessing in disguise for me because a delay of about 2 hours or more would ensure that I reach Guwahati after dawn. Eventually, the train was given a go ahead after about an hour of unscheduled halt.
The train arrived at Malda Town, a major halt station, 2 hours behind schedule. The loco changed from WDM-3A class (diesel) of Barddhaman shed to another WDM-3A class (diesel) of Malda Town shed. A diesel-to-diesel change just didn’t make any sense to me and it wouldn’t have made any difference, had the WDM-3A class loco of Barddhaman shed continued hauling the train till Guwahati. The train pulled out after a 20-minute halt, delayed by over 2 hours with a new loco and a fresh set of crew at its helm.
               It was 4:30 PM but it became too dark and very cold outside and I couldn't continue doorplating as the weariness was gripping me, so I decided to return to my seat and interacted with some other fellow passengers. There were a lot Indian Navy cadets traveling on an adjacent non-AC sleeper class coach and it was also very interesting to interact with them, as well. Learned a lot of things from them as I always enjoy learning! For most of the time, I sauntered around the train, interacted with many passengers and until we reached New Jalpaiguri junction around 9 PM – 3 hours behind schedule!  After New Jalpaiguri, it was only about 10 hours to reach Guwahati and an additional 3 hours to reach my destination, Shillong – My long journey was about to be concluded!
             The next day I woke up to see the train closing in on Guwahati station, delayed by over 3 hours. Had the train been running on time, I would have arrived at 4:30 AM and thus it would have been difficult to find a cab/bus to Shillong. Upon disembarking, I was lucky to find an Assam State Transport bus bound for Shillong waiting right outside the station. The journey between Guwahati and Shillong was even more captivating with the feeling of joy, and excitement to be in Shillong once again. 

The Assam State Transport Corporation Bus Bound for Shillong from Guwahati