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