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What PD did in Cal: The cockroach express!

22 November 2005
Posted in: Scratchpad | 8 Comments

Homecoming is usually a very emotional experience for me—I have to be dragged back kicking and screaming because I hate coming back to Delhi. It’s a horrible enough place by itself, but when compared to other places, it gets even horribler!

Anyway, this isn’t about Delhi. It’s about Calcutta, the City of Joy that has brought me so much grief. But not this time, thankfully. Even though the visiting family bit was—well, I’d rather not complete that sentence lest I write something incriminating and a family member happens by! Familial politics can be very tricky indeed!

Since there is a quite a bit to say, I’ll be doing this in parts. In any case, the unforgettable train ride deserves a whole post to itself!

Well, Cal was very nice, but getting there was a bit of a nightmare, even though we used the Rajdhani Express. (They are the Indian Railway’s express trains connecting the capital with various other major cities. Needless to say, they are priced slightly higher than usual. Food and service are included in the fare, and it takes you to your destination a good deal faster.)

Filthy would be a mild term to describe the state of the train. All right, we were in AC-3 (translated, AC carriage with three-tier sleeper berths), the cheapest class, but I am pretty sure I didn’t pay for the cockroaches! Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for cockroaches—after all, they’ve been around since the time of the dinos, right?!—but I’m dashed if I have to share my berth with them!

Plenty of people complained, but it was a bit too late by then. It was pretty obvious the cleaning crew wasn’t doing their job properly. I am ashamed to admit, when the staff came by with their usual plate of saunf (aniseed; a digestive and mouth freshener, customarily served in India after meals), I was too spineless to have a rousing showdown with them and even tipped them a tenner! *sheepish*

The food was… uh… the usual train/aircraft food. You don’t really know what you’re eating till they tell you! There was tomato soup and breadsticks first. I had a “continental” dinner, which had some wierd chicked dish, bread and butter, a whole lot of boiled veggies and (YESSS!) a fish fry! And ice-cream. (Oh, I forgot to mention the cheese sandwich and patty, with a cold drink and tea, that they served earlier for tea.)

For breakfast the next day I had an omlette and bread/butter/jam. There were some boiled peas with the omlette—leftovers from dinner?!—though on the way back they had changed to French fries!

Odd! And I much prefer to pay for my food as and when I want something!

Oh, and the train… it was fast. But it still ended up forty-five minutes late (though we were bang on time on the way back)!

~PD

(P.S.: If anyone has never seen an Eastern-style toilet but wants to [the reasons I don’t want to know!], I have a photo!)

8 Responses

  1. Marie says:

    I looked and looked and looked some more…but I found no mention of my present!

  2. Kate says:

    Boiled peas and french fries? How interesting! 😛

    It sounds like the train ride was an event. How long did the ride take? I’ve heard of those express trains, and would like to have a go on one some day.

    You were brave enough dealing with the cockroaches. Don’t feel too badly about not confronting the staff. It’s harder than it seems (especially when they are bringing around little things after!).

    *is debating on whether or not to ask to see that eastern toilet* I did ask for a picture.. and never did specify of *what*. 😉

  3. Proteeti says:

    Lol – how well I know what you mean, having travelled in the Rajdhani Express about a million times before! But cockroaches? I once saw a mouse, but roaches are definitely an upgrade! What I find most irritating is when the crew decide to poke you awake at 7 in the morning, just when you’re deep in satifsying slumber, to hand you a thermos of tea you don’t want!

  4. Payal says:

    Marie: Somehow I think that watercolour Victoria Memorial card I got will not quite satisfy you 😛

    Kate: This journey was 17 hours, but you can have a 40-hour one if you want to go further south! *evil chuckle* Oh, and relax, I have non-toilet photos too!

    Proteeti: Actually that thermos of “bed tea” was the one thing I liked (because I was too scared to sleep after finding a tiny roach in my bunk!).

  5. Alpana says:

    Echoing Marie–what about my fish fries?
    I don’t like the music they play on Rajdhani. The attendant once played the soundtrack of “Hum Apke Hain Kaun” non-stop for 20 of the 28-hour journey to Assam. I would rather have roaches in my blanket than have no control over the music they play.

  6. Kate says:

    Were they the scary roaches where if you hit one with a shoe they pop back up again? *shudders* Brave Jan!

    17 hours does not sound too bad. It *is* too bad the train wasn’t nicer, because at least with that you can get up and move around to break up the time.

    Yay for the non-toilet photos! 😉

  7. Me, Vertex boy says:

    I still do not understand how your train manages to take 17 hours… That is just way too long time. I could count to 100 more than twice in that time.

    In Sweden it gets cold sometimes, and then all cockroaches goes all stiff and frozen. So that basically means that there are none of them here! No large spiders either. I am scared of bugs. Tiny ants are okay though… and dragonflies and butterflies and ladybugs.

    I tend to ramble when I talk about stuff I fear, can you tell?

  8. shilpa says:

    I haven’t been to Cal since 1995, so thanks for recapping about the mishti doi, puchkas and rolls!! am soooo jealous. and terribly hungry 🙂

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