29 November 2005

The Journey Back or 1020 Konark Express

This is a belated post. I have been postponing it. Well I had a waitlisted ticket of sleeper class on te good old Konark Express. WL 84/104. It means my original waitlist was 104 and cleared till 84 at the time of printing of ticket. I saw the waitlist numbers dwindle ... 70 .. 68 .. 50 .. 43 .. until it finally stopped at 26 and I was left high and dry! I had to leave that day so I just boarded the train hoping to get a seat en route. I boarded the VSKP bogey so I could atleast sleep the first 8 hours of the 36 hour journey till Vishakhapatnam. At VSKP I had to leave to find another berth which subsequently got filled up at Rajahmundhry. At this I found another berth vacant (lucky me!) till Vijaywada. After that ofcourse it was early morning and I got a place to sit. I saw the gigantic state of Andhra Pradesh pass by. We had left the coastal belt, then the Godavari basin and now entering the badlands of Warangal/Khammam dominated by naxalites. The landscape is bare, occasional cultivated land still not a soul to be seen. Occasionally there were christian cemetries with ornate tomb stones looking really out of place in the entire scheme of things. It looks as if this place has a substantial christian population. The surest sign of a Big city is when you can feel its presence almost an hour before its scheduled arrival time. Its true with Secunderabad too. Unplanned buildings and construction, large hordings and slums dominate the landscape an hour before the train is to arrive at Secunderabad. The mobile network is fleeting though. Secunderabad means Chicken biryani and a persistent mobile phone network so a short chat with wife. I can see the effects of IT revolution gradually unfold before me. Ofcourse before that is the magnificent Hussain Sagar with the giant Buddha statue all visible from the train window. Begumpet. Airport. And then a string of Mumbai like "local" stations built ... Sanat nagar, also "High Tech City", which seems like an oasis of tall modern buildings in a sparse rocky landscape. I have been told these rocks are millions of years old, formed when lava from a now extinct volcano suddenly cooled. Some are very peculiarly perched on top of each other almost defying the laws of gravity. Unfortunately all these are being quarried away. Some are sporting political messages and advertisements. A good hour later the last vestiges of Hyderabad/Secunderabad vanish from the seen. The train has a short gallant run of 4 hours in the state of Karnataka .. Wadi and Gulbarga. Huge cement factories dominate the scene. The roofs of the houses are made af a uniform type of white rectangular tile. I fail to discern what it is. Then Solapur, which means I get another vacant berth. There is a group of girls going to Mumbai ostensibly to an air hostess training institute. I sleep till Daund when I relish old college time memories of eating omlette - bread at Daund station! Pune is of course as magnificent as ever but you can see little from the train window at nigh. I keep sleeping till Kalyan after which it is ofcourse the familiar Mumbai ... Suburban stations ... but no local at this hour. Train arrives at the god forsaken platform no 15 of CST only 15 mins late in its run of 36 hours!
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