One of my crazy and wanderlust dreams was to travel in the Indian Railways “unreserved compartment” for a very long distance. I decided to board the Tamil Nadu Express which ply’s between Chennai and New Delhi on 10.02.2012. It was an instant decision and I packed my travel bag and bought my ticket at the Central railway station, Chennai. It was a long queue to even get an open ticket. After 45 minutes halt I managed to get a ticket. The best part was the ticket which was priced only Rs. 287/-. I was all set to encounter one of my “Dream Journey” travelling in the unreserved compartment for almost 36 hours.
Discovering a place to rest:
A typical unreserved coach in Indian railways is poorly maintained with no place to sleep for longer journeys. More than the poor condition of the coach the compartment which is supposed to occupy 75 passengers was over flowing with 200 + passengers. There was no place to even keep one’s foot anywhere. The saddest part was even the filthy toilets were occupied by youngsters who used that place for smoking.
I had difficult time finding a place for myself on the upper rack which is usually the place to rest the goodies. However, two other youngsters from Andhra Pradesh and me were sharing that upper rack. The train started moving at 2200 hours and thus the Journey began.
A sleepless night on the upper rack:
There was no proper place for me to rest my back comfortably still I managed to tolerate it watching the fellow passengers lying on the floor and leaning against seats. Just remembered one of the best poetic lines written by Kannadasan for an old Tamil song “Enge Nimmathi” “there are Crores of people below you and one should know how to make yourself happy looking at their plight”. Since my place was slightly better than their place I was able to live with the dis-comfortness and prepared myself for the sleepless train journey. The next stop was after almost 6 hours in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh until then I was restrained from moving anywhere and had to squeeze myself in the very little place I managed to get. It was a long and sleepless night with temperature going down in the night.
Second day ordeal in the train:
The day started with a slight back pain and muscle aches throughout the body. But I was determined to complete my travel. The motivating factor of the entire trip was my fellow passengers who appeared to be down trodden but without any complaints were just enjoying the travel amidst the pile of human beings thronging everywhere.
The unreserved compartment is cordoned off from the remaining reserved coaches therefore I had difficulty in getting my food, water and attending nature’s call. However, in every stop I somehow managed to refresh myself and continued the journey.
The cold and second sleepless night:
Now the train crossed Maharashtra and entered Madhya Pradesh the temperature started dipping. I only had a thick jacket to guard me from cold. Almost my finger started to shiver with cold but somehow I was pushing myself with the hope that the day will start soon and it will be warmer enough to bring me back to normalcy. After a long struggle for warmness I somehow successfully managed to spend the night.
The train hit the Delhi railway station around 7 a.m and it was partially covered with mist and my muscles were crying out of ache. However, with the joy of successfully completing my “Dream Journey” of about 2,184 kms in unreserved compartment was something only a wanderlust heart would be proud off.
I had travelled on top of buses, goods lorry but still this journey was the longest and the best. With the joy of accomplishing my journey successfully I stepped out of the train and walked on the platform with the travel bag on my shoulders. Indeed, a proud feeling and I told to myself with the experiences I encountered in this journey I am fit to take any kind of travel in south India comfortably.