(If you came here looking to read something about Natalie Portman, please go away!)
Followers of my blogs would have noticed that I have recently tended to be slightly messianic about train journeys- lovely scenery, effective journey time for short travels, environment friendly (ok maybe I haven’t directly made a reference to environment friendliness but it is all implied) and so on. The even more careful followers of my blog would also remember my reference (here) to an alleged black swan train running between Chennai and Bangalore (in contrast to a decent and comfortable train that I had taken on that particular occasion). I heard the dark story but when you are travelling in a clean and relatively new train (i.e the white swan) you don’t think much about horror stories. And so it was that I found myself with a ticket to the very same black swan train as I have now christened it.
Maybe it was when I was walking along the platform beside the train to get into my compartment or maybe it was when I tried to get into the train but nearly fell backwards because of how narrow the foothold was (and I didn’t have luggage) that I first got a bad feeling about this. Still I try to describe myself as an open person and so I bravely opened the door into the carriage and then cringed.
If there was ever a train that had faded and dirty carpets- this was it! The seats inside the compartment were all reclined at odd angles – like victims at Pompeii and Herculaneum frozen by volcanic ash from Vesuvius (and there probably was enough dust on the seats to justify this description). I walked up to my seat and unsuccessfully tried to bring my 128 degree angled chair back to 90. After a few attempts I resigned myself to either sitting straight without a backrest or just giving up and spraining my back on the 5 hour journey.
I shudder to describe the amount of crap that was around, the broken magazine and cupholders in the seats in front and the grimy opaque windows through which you could see nothing- I almost expected to see dead spiders caught in between the two layers of the windows (I have actually seen this way back when I was little so the horror is always there) but thankfully I was atleast spared of that trauma.
And as if Indian Railways didn’t hate me enough I was surrounded by about 8 children (aged variously between 3 and 8 ) wailing, yelling and screaming around me. No amount of loud music on my ipod could block out the ruckus that the kids were creating. The last straw was my inability to read my book because the train shook so much. I also kept nervously glancing at my neighbour who looked capable of spilling her food on me (now that would have made me reach for the emergency brake- fine or no fine!).
It was with relief that I allowed myself to be pushed out of the now delayed train. And somehow some instinct in me had made me book a flight ticket back to Chennai for my return journey. And if you were wondering- I had a very comfortable flight. I could have kissed the aircraft!