Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Garden City to Steel City

I have always loved traveling. I love visiting new places, to see beautiful places and to see how different the people are from my native. The mode of travel has never been an issue to me, I love traveling even if it’s by foot, by road, by rail, by air or by sea. Last weekend I got another opportunity to travel a few thousand kilometers in 2 and half days, which meant that there would be a number of travel modes, less sleep and loads of traveling.

I had to travel from Bangalore, the garden city to Bhilai, the steel city; to attend the wedding reception of one of my friend from TAPMI. Due to constraints in budget as well as the constraints in the number of leaves which I could take, the planning took a good one week.

We left for Chennai on the night of 8-Feb. There were no flights from Bangalore to Raipur, which was the closest airport to Bhilai, hence we had to go via Chennai. We took the Chennai mail and surprisingly reached Chennai on time; at 4:30am. Since I had stayed in Chennai, I knew that the cheapest and the fastest way of reaching the airport was by using the suburban train. We reached Chennai Park station, which is right opposite to the Chennai Central.

I knew that the nearest suburban station to the airport goes by the name “Trishulam”, but I did not know how far the airport was from that station and how I could get from the station to the airport at 5:30am. Since I was not prepared to take an auto or a cab from Central to Airport, I decided to risk taking the train. Finally, it turned out to be the cheapest and the most convenient way to reach the airport. The cost of the ticket was Rs.6 and the airport was right opposite the railway station, we just had to come out of the station and cross the road.

Our flight from Chennai to Raipur was by Indian (erstwhile Indian Airlines), and the scheduled departure was 10am, and we reached the airport at 6am. We used the remaining time to freshen ourselves and to have tea and something to eat. By the time we were done it was 7:30am, and that’s when the announcement was made that our flight would be delayed due to foggy conditions in Vizag. Our flight was supposed to make a stop over at Vizag.

So we sat in the airport, watching the same news channel on TV, hearing the same new over and over every half an hour until our flight finally took off at 12 noon. I was a bit surprised when they did not serve breakfast, they served snacks. Luckily, we had something to eat in the airport; hence we did not have to go hungry. We landed at Raipur airport at 3pm, and took a cab to Bhilai.

Our accommodation was arranged in a hotel right opposite the Durg railway station. Bhilai and Durg are twin cities similar to Hyderabad and Secundrabad. Durg is the city and Bhilai is the planned steel plant and residential complex for the people employed in the factory.

The reception started off in the evening at 7, and went on till 12 midnight. We had a nice time there with our friends. At times, we made so much noise that we were afraid that the grooms parents might come and ask us to shut up!!!

We were to start our return journey immediately, as our train to Nagpur was at 3:30am. We slept for an hour and reached the station at 3am. As luck would have it, our train had an engine trouble and it was delayed by an hour and 40 mins. We were afraid that we might miss our connecting train, which would depart from Nagpur at 10:20am. The person manning the enquiries post asked us to meet the station master as he could make alternate arrangements for us in another train.

When we met the station master, he told us (rudely) that such arrangements can be made only if the train is running late by more than 3 hours. He also told us that our train would come at 5, and we would be able to catch our connecting train easily. So we sat in the mosquito and dog infested platform for 1 hour 45 mins.

The train arrived at 5, and we got into the train and slept off. I was woken up in an hour by my co-passengers who were chatting very loudly, and spent the rest of the time enjoying the morning scenery. We reached Nagpur at 9am and had our breakfast from one of the good hotels in the platform.

My dad was also in Nagpur on that day, for some official work and he came to meet me in the station. The last leg of our journey – Nagpur to Bangalore – was the one I was really looking forward to, which was due to the fact that we had made our reservation in Nizamuddin-Bangalore Rajdhani Express. It was the first time I was traveling by Rajdhani, and I’ve always cherished my desire to travel in one.

Rajdhani too was in the list of late arrivals over the past two days. It was also late by 1 hour 40 mins. We spent the time waiting in the waiting room. There were two things which I noticed about Nagpur, one the place was very dirty and two the girls were beautiful. I guess my dad noticed me ogling at a few girls, since he told me after a few moments, “Vidharbha (the eastern part of Maharashtra) was known from the ancient times for the beautiful women who resided in this part of the country. If you remember, Bheeshma abducted Amba, Ambika and Ambalika, the three most beautiful women of their times for his king”. I nodded my agreement.

The train arrived at 12 noon and my first experience with Rajdhani was extremely good. The only thing you end up doing in the train is to eat and to sleep. The caterers were good and the journey was really enjoyable. We reached Bangalore the next day at 7am.

That concluded my 58 hours almost non-stop travel which took me through 5 states, covering almost 3000kms and we slept only for about 13 hours. I’m looking forward for the next trip!!!

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