Back to Bengaluru on Garib Rath!

September 23, 2016

This was perhaps the most hit-or-miss journeys I've ever had. I and my colleague left the venue of the meeting sometime around 1530hrs - we wanted to get the Garib Rath Express to Bengaluru - that was the last train of the day, and should we miss that, we'd end up stuck in Trivandrum for a day. We had to hurry. We hadn't reserved any tickets - but we decided to try the current reservation counter at Trivandrum central. We made it there by around 1545hrs - there was no staff at the counter. The board outside the counter said tickets would be issued upto 30 minutes before departure of train from the origin - our train leaves at 1700hrs. Once the guy at the counter turned up, we put in our application form. We got the seats we asked for - in G15.
The ticket- "Journey cum reservation ticket after charting"
We rushed out of the railway station towards the lodge where we had taken a room - we had to vacate the room and rush to Kochuveli to catch our train. In the meantime, I was preoccupied with apps of various cab aggregators - one of them confirmed availability and I booked a cab. The cab arrived as soon as we checked out of the hotel - the driver was appraised of the situation. He sounded a little worried since it was peak hours and we were heading in the direction of the crowd. He accepted the challenge and took to some narrow roads. Battling traffic and bottlenecks, he dropped us near the footover bridge of Kochuveli station at 1645hrs - 15 minutes to spare for our train!

Lady luck favoured us throughout this trip - everytime, our coaches were located right near exits or foot overbridges. This time as well, our coach was located right next to the landing of the foot over bridge. The generator car was growling at the top of its voice. The 18 coach consist - 16 AC Sleepers and 2 Generator cars - was to be pulled by a WDM3A (#14025) of Krishnarajapuram diesel loco shed. Our coach was of 2008 vintage (WACCNH1 08123). Unlike regular Third-AC coaches of Indian Railways, this coach carries more passengers (64 vs 78) by having slightly narrower berths and fixing an additional "middle berth" on the side rows. Garib Rath (loosely translated as the Poor Man's chariot) was a concept introduced in 2005 to make AC rides affordable to the common public. These coaches charge lesser fares than regular train and offer absolutely no frills - bed rolls are chargeable in these trains.
WDM3A#14025 at the helm of our rake..
We started off from Kochuveli right on time - crawled out slowly and joined the main line. I was quite happy hearing the typical Alco chugs and the amount of smoke it threw out. Diesel locomotives are always considered to have a character - it makes lovely noise, lets out smoke and appear quite macho. I remained inside the coach almost throughout the journey - hooked to my phone. I was quite tired from the long day - and of course the heat. Bedroll staff came around soon after we started - I had placed a request for the same along with my booking. Since we had booked through current reservation, our details didn't feature on the list the bedroll guy had - but he quickly verified our ticket and handed over our bedrolls.

The bedroll in this train was in stark contrast with what we got on the AC Express - the bedrolls in AC Express was white and crisp, and was handed out in neatly packed condition. The ones in Garib Rath, for which we had to pay extra, on the other hand, were soiled, torn and looked like it had far better days. I did not like the quality of the bed rolls. Tweets flew out - and some fake promises were received from the railways in return.




The two of us were hungry - we had literally run through to get into the train and we did not have time to buy anything - and there were no stalls at the station either. Soon after the train reached Kollam (around 1800hrs), a vendor got in with some good food - we got a plate of poori subzi each. While, like every vendor, he claimed its hot - it was cold, but was quite tasty. We were hungry anyways - and getting something to eat was more important. The run after Kollam was mundane and routine - nothing worth noting. I was quite tired, and actually just spent time watching a movie on my phone. The window was fogged, which is quite usual for me, and I could not see anything outside. It got dark, and even more boring as we progressed towards Kottayam.

The onboard catering guys came around with their dinner products - I took a plate of Parotta, while my colleague did not buy anything. He purchased his dinner at Kottayam station instead. As we passed each station, the crowd inside the coach just kept increasing - from the reservation chart, we did make out that the coach was actually full that day! We started digging into our dinner after Kottayam - the Kerala Parotta (layered flatbread made using refined flour, aka Maida - often sarcastically called the state meal of Kerala) was soft and the coconut milk based gravy given along was really tasty and spiced appropriately. I enjoyed a railway meal after a long time.
The train as we prepared to start from Kochuveli..
With tiredness taking over me, I badly wanted to hit the bed. My colleague shared the same sentiment. The berths were up in no time. I only remember lying down - slept in no time. The ride quality in this coach was really poor - there was a lot of sways and rocking movements - but no jerks ala LHB. The ride quality in the LHB rake was certainly superior than this one. I remember a commotion inside the coach as the co-passengers in the same cubicle as ours joined - a lady in the party was loud and brash - she threw around her baggage and attitude. I continued sleeping as her majesty headed to her berth. Although the sleep wasn't comfortable - it was still good. I woke up as the train was climbing up the ghats near Hosur. We pulled into Hosur station by around 0800hrs - I generally prefer getting down here, but the heightened tensions around the state border (due to the cauvery water sharing row) meant there were no bus services, and I certainly didn't want to risk getting stranded.

The train made a brief stop at Heelalige home signal. I was hoping that we stopped at Carmelram - which would help me get home faster - but we just sped through the station. As the train neared Banasawadi, the exits became crowded - people with heavy baggage blocked the exits. I managed to get off the train successfully here (0910hrs), while my colleague continued to Yeswantpur. It seemed like half the train got off there - the platform was crowded, the exit was chocked, the circulating area outside had a massive traffic jam. The cab I had booked was parked outside the station premises, and the driver co-ordinated well on the phone. It was hell getting out the place - but the cabbie did a good job at that.

I liked this journey as well. The berth was narrow - especially for a heavy built profile like mine. The bedrolls were terrible - really wonder why people should pay for these. The coach was quite cold at night - the ambience to sleep was perfect. The ride quality was terrible - or maybe I was just pampered by the smooth ride in the LHB coach that we had on the outbound. The food was tasty and was decently priced as well. On the whole, a good journey without burning a hole in my pocket. 

Comments

dpirsm said…
a train enthusiast for sure
Krishnaprasad said…
High time to build a new station in Marathahalli :) atleast like they did in Hoodi.
rahulvijayev said…
Hello Binaieta, Nice travelogue. You had an option of getting down at Hosur and taking the Hosur-Yeswantpur DEMU and then get down at either Heelalige or Carmelaram. This runs on all days except Sundays.

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