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The First Time: A long train journey!

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Train travels were always rare in my childhood. It was always easier to take the bus to travel to our hometown from Coimbatore where we were based at that time. The only time we took trains were during those rare visits to Kasaragod to visit relatives, and a journey to Chennai (Madras, those days) for some sightseeing. However, trains were always fascinating. My kindergarten school was along the railway line in Coimbatore - it was always fun watching trains rolling by. That said, I was afraid of a locomotive coming close to me - my memories of watching the noisy and smoke spewing locomotive passing by always has me closing my ears tight. I have one fond memory of traveling from Coimbatore to Kasaragod in General Class sitting compartment, by Mangala Express, which operated from Delhi to Mangalore those days (before Konkan Railway was commissioned). That journey was in a coach that was second from the engine - so I was kind of exposed to the sound of the locomotive for close to 8 hours…

The First Time: Travel in First AC of Indian Railways!

Indian railways is an emotion for every traveller in India. Your love for train travels increase as much as you want to hate it. Although buses took over to being the option of choice for the younger generation and the frequent traveller population, trains continue to be the lifeline of the country. With complete electrification and doubling happening at brisk pace, the Indian Railways is doing its best to regain the ground it lost to the roadways. 
Back in the mid 2000s, when buses hadn't completely taken over long distance travel, and trains had their own mad fan following, long journeys inevitably meant taking the train. Train tickets were always difficult to get and the railways had a very unique tatkal scheme, where you had to pay ticket fare for the entire journey, irrespective of the distance you actually travel, along with a tatkal premium.
In mid 2006, my dad and I had to travel urgently from Mumbai to Bangalore. Flights were prohibitively expensive and buses weren't an…

COVID-19: How it changes the way we travel?

The COVID-19 pandemic hit India harder than we all expected. It was towards the end of February that India saw heightened precautions against possible spread of COVID-19 in our country. By early March, governments had started implementing precautionary measures even in domestic travel. Sometime in the second week of March, the numbers began rising, and panic started to set in. Towards the end of March, we went in to a prolonged lockdown, which hasn't been completely reversed yet. It isn't time yet to reverse the lockdown, or travel! 
How would this change the way we travel?
People say wearing the mask would be the "new normal" - but would that be? Has anyone fancied wearing the mask while you go to sleep, for over 8 hours when you travel, and eating food when its break time. 
People say social distancing would be the "new normal" - Social what? Is it really feasible for a country of 1.3 Billion people to actually practice social distancing? Try to think of Mum…

The evolution of bus travels in India - Part-3

The City Bus!
Urban transportation is a hot topic across the globe. An efficient urban transportation system plays a very important route in reducing pollution and maintaining efficiency of a City! Urban Transportation has not been something that governments in India ever focused on. Urban Transportation could be handled by trains or buses - Mumbai, the financial capital of India, has a super efficient, terribly overburdened suburban railway system which plays a very important role in moving people in the city that never sleeps. 
Buses are a very important component of City transportation - they have the unique ability of being a mass transporter, and also provide "close-to-last" mile connectivity. While a metro train or a suburban train wouldn't get you as close to your doorstep as possible (unless you stay right outside the station), buses are often able to do that. In my definition, a bus stop less than 500 metres from your door-step could be considered a "close-t…

The evolution of bus travels in India - Part-2

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Buses and bus travels have come a very long way in India. From what was one predominantly a feeder mode of transportation, or a primary mode of transportation even for long distance journeys, there has been a metamorphosis in the road transport industry. Powerful luxury buses, combined with rapidly progressing highway works has just been the booster this industry needed. In the earlier part of this multi-part series on evolution of bus travels in India, I had discussed about the way the buses changed in the country. The last two decades has been very happening in the country.

Before I begin this part, I must retrace the memories of long distance buses to the period before the last two decades. My daily spotting every single day in the 1999-2000 period were those long distance buses that operated daily trips from Mumbai to Mangalore - buses of CPC, Ballal, etc. These buses took 24 hours to cover the distance from Mumbai to Mangalore - they carried huge amounts of cargo on their roof a…

The evolution of bus travels in India - Part-1

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Sometime in early 2000s:
It was about 2 years since we had moved to Mumbai from Coimbatore. It was perhaps the first time we were traveling to our hometown in Kerala after moving to Mumbai. We were traveling by road - my brother at the wheels of our Omni - he was the only driver in the family back then. We traveled via Ratnagiri, Panaji, Karwar, Mangalore, Kasaragod and Kozhikode. On the highway, spotted quite a lot of buses - owned by an operator called "Benzy". Those days, Benzy was the leading operator on the Mumbai-Thrissur route - buses took about 24 hours those days to cover the distance from Mumbai to Mangalore - and another 10 hrs or so to reach Thrissur! How do people travel such long distances by bus was the question I had in my mind back then. Buses were mostly used for short distances then. The longest journey I've experienced those days was between Coimbatore and Alappuzha - a distance of about 6 hours then. 
The luxuries offered by buses those days was a pu…

Dosa, Dosai or Dosé?

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The ubiquitous south Indian crispy, thin crepes made of fermented rice and lentil batter is a favorite in almost every South Indian restaurant. An all-time favorite item on the menu that is often available morning to night (some hotels don't serve this food during lunch hours). It comes in a variety of forms - Plain, Masala, Ghee, Butter, and what not. There are other variants that don't use lentils, some that use other grains like Rava or millets.

Although all the South Indian states specialize in preparing this food item, the way it is prepared changes between the states. I wouldn't comment on the variants of Dosa available outside of South India. Now, everyone likes the style of Dosa that is prepared in their home state - the crispy thin layered version of Tamil Nadu (Dosai), or the thin, not so crispy variant of Kerala (Dosa) or the thicker, oily and roasted variant of Karnataka (Dosé - read as "Do-Sey"). Each style has their own fan following, and its own t…

BRTS aka Bus Rapid Transit System!

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Bus Rapid Transit System or BRTS is a bus based rapid transit system. Designed alike a railway system, the BRTS uses dedicated lanes on roads that allow fast movement of buses without being slowed down by other vehicles on the road. This system allows for higher frequency of services, and often longer buses. Wikipedia goes on to say the first BRTS system in the world was built in Canada in 1973, followed by the famous Curitiba BRTS in Brazil, in 1974. The most used BRTS system in the world is believed to be the one in the Colombian capital city Bogota.

The first BRT System in India was built in Pune, which was never completed - still has large unfinished stretches. The first functional BRT system in India was perhaps the one in Delhi, but the most successful one, perhaps, is the Ahmedabad Janmarg BRTS. User sourced information on Wikipedia claims there are about 14 or so functional BRT systems in India. I've had the fortune to travel in two such BRT systems in India - the Rainbow…