The Slow Train to Calcutta

Remember when you were a kid, and the teachers used to tell you to write about “What you did this summer”. Of course you do, it was annoying. Anyway, that’s what I’m going to do. This summer I went to Sikkim, Kodaikanal and Ooty. I was supposed to go to Yercaud too, but unfortunately my experiment to cause a spacetime rift resulting in a duplicate of me occupying another place at the same time as me failed. To get to Gangtok we had to reach Calcutta Howrah and then take a train from Calcutta Sealdah to New Jalpaiguri (NJP). It took us a couple of days to get to Calcutta from Chennai Central, but fortunately we’d got tickets in the AC Three Tier coaches.

Inside the train. The train was quite comfortable, and the AC nearly managed to cope with the horrible heat. The cups in our hands once contained tomato soup, better known as ‘flaming lava that will burn your throat to a cinder’. Notice the view outside the window, it almost seems like a temperate landscape, except that it’s all due to the fact that our window alone (out of all the windows) was heavily tinted. Oh well, it preserved a nice feeling through the trip. Sharing that particular compartment were another family (a mother and two kids, one hyper active). The little boy kept stealing our pillows, and claiming that Bikram was intelligent but that I was not intelligent. His words, accompanied by a wagging finger. Thank you, boy, for your on-site instant IQ evaluation. I think the journey was two days. At this point in the trip I was thinking two days is a lot to be stuck on a train for. I mean, sure I’ve travelled by train lots but these multi-day journeys weren’t common. I wonder how Bikram, Suraj and I managed to stand each other for so long. Oh yeah, we didn’t.

Random station

Somewhere along the trip the train stopped for some 12-15 minutes at a tiny station. Wondering what was going on we stepped off on to the platform only to find that we couldn’t pronounce the name of the station. I can’t recall where it was now (in time or in space) and the only way that I can identify it is by mentioning that it had an odd platform which after a while (behind the camera in the shot) it did some strange things. To illustrate using ASCII, it went something like this:
=====\____/---- except smoother and without the extra parts sticking up above platform level.
Some drunk platform designer.

This photo also illustrates the difference between an Indian and a Nepali, Bikram the Indian is doing a “Ha ha, the train’s starting and you’re going to miss it.” while Suraj is telling me to get on. I’ll get you for that, Bikram! Also worth observing is that Bikram has an extra arm and leg of different complexion. It’s true, the stories about the campus hospital. I knew it! Anyway I did manage to get on (obviously!) because the train started surprisingly slowly. I wonder what would have happened if I’d missed the train. I don’t think I had enough money in my pockets to get to Calcutta (only some 300 rupees). That place was hot, as in the temperature there was higher than normal. I feel sorry for the poor souls who had to live there, it looked lost and lonely and there was a bulldozer in the background. Bulldozers are always a bad sign.

There were also a couple of middle-aged guys who got out of the train and went on rambling about something or the other. It was total rambling. I think they were Malayalis. That may explain it. Ramblers. And a fruit seller with only rotten plantains. It’s a conspiracy, you can get nothing but junk food and flaming tomato soup anywhere.

And because I can’t think of enough to fill up the rest. Here’s the other two photos from the trip.
1. At Vishakpatnam, where we paid for juice that tasted like crap and then threw it away. We nearly missed the train when it started because it went in the opposite direction. Hopeless!
2. The Mahanadi? Or the Godavari? No clue, in any case, it looked much more impressive in real life, like.