Yeshwantpur to Thrissur on Garib Rath Express

The COVID-19 Pandemic was hitting India harder than imagined. Positive cases began appearing out of no where, and the Government was working overtime to keep the situation under control. The first, and the most appropriate idea, was to keep the crowds out - the government declared holidays for all educational institutions. Our campus also had to shut down - we broke our heads trying to identify solutions to deliver course content online and implemented some of them. The situation turned grim over the days as the local government forced students to travel to their hometowns from Bengaluru to reduce crowd in the city - local stores were slowly shutting down, and hotels too were slowly closing. Our campus decided to shut down completely, and staff were given offs for a long period. A lot of us were staying alone in the City, and we weighed our options. I consulted with health department staff back in my home town, and finally decided to travel home and remain indoors for the rest of the period.

March 17, 2020:
I woke up quite early in the day - just to make sure my garbage back was picked up by the BBMP Pourakarmikas (Local municipal health workers). I was traveling out of town for a long duration, and I couldn't surely leave the garbage behind. I remained sleepy and groggy for some more time in the morning before I headed to the kitchen to cook up something for breakfast. While I remained undecided in the morning, my colleague was continuously pinging me to find what was my call. A few of us were traveling that evening, and we decided to travel together. We all finally took the call to book on the 12257 Garib Rath express departing at 2100hrs that evening. I tried booking through the IRCTC website, and the booking failed, not once or twice, but 5 times! Money was deducted from my card 4 out of the 5 times as well! In fact, I had spaced my trials apart. I finally attempted through the IRCTC app (which doesn't let you earn points on the IRCTC Loyalty program), which worked and my ticket was booked.

I checked the seat availability status after reservation charts were prepared - over 2/3rd of the train was empty! The current seat availability was over 850 seats! I quickly checked availability of seats on buses - the picture was even grim there! Plenty of seats available all around. Not a great time for the travel industry - and it surely is wiser to stay home than to travel around. For people like us, staying alone in a far away city - it made sense to travel back and remain with family.

We all decided to have our dinner before heading to the railway station - headed to a nearby restaurant, which was empty. The guy at the billing counter told us we'd have to wait since he needs to check with the chef if items were available! Our dinner got a little delayed - we missed our original plan of traveling by a local train to Yeshwantpur (it later turned out that the train was later, and may be we could've got the train if we had walked down to the station) - we booked an Uber to the station - the driver was excited with the booking. It seems bookings were terribly down - so were his earnings! The ride to the station took a little over 20 minutes - the road were comparatively empty. We were at Yeshwantpur by 2035hrs - with 25 minutes to spare for our train.

The rake was already berthed on Platform 1 - and unlike the last time, the rake was berthed towards the middle of the platform. The loco to work the consist was already connected and was revving up preparing for her long duty to Kochuveli. The platform was milling with students - all of them returning home since colleges in the city were closed until end of the month. I found a lot of my students as well - some of them were in the same coach as mine, while some were in other coaches. My coach, G7, appeared to have been cleaned really well before the journey commenced - the floor was clean, and all seats appeared to have been wiped clean. There was not a speck of dirt any where. The toilets were clean and kept fresh. Goes on to prove that the railways knew how to keep the coaches clean - but needed a reason to clean. All curtains were removed as well - giving the train a very airy and bright feel.
The dippy getting reading for the long ride ahead..

The train started off from Yeshwantpur exactly at 2100hrs. A TTE came a little after we departed - I've never seen a TTE (Travelling Ticket Examiner) on this train - he wore a mask and went about checking tickets diligently. A lot of people had exchanged berths, and he had a tough time marking people present. The bed-roll attendant came around to distribute bed rolls to passengers who had pre-booked it - I had pre-booked one. Blankets were not distributed - the railways say they distribute it on demand. I didn't check if that was true. The temperature inside the coach was adjusted such that people didn't really need a blanket. The linen provided was absolutely fresh - the bed spread appeared to have been bleached and starched. Meanwhile, the train slowly crawled towards Banaswadi. The train was looped at Hebbal for a crossing - a fairly empty express train crossed us here. We left Hebbal at around 2132hrs after a 10 minute halt.

We rolled in to Banaswadi at 2147hrs - the platform was largely empty (a very unusual sight when this train arrives). We started off at 2150hrs. Since we were traveling as a group, we spent most of the time talking and pulling each others' legs. We did not even realise that the train had traveled quite some distance by then - we rolled in to Hosur station by 2237hrs - the platform was quite crowded here. We started off at 2240hrs - more people joined our coach here (turned out that the railways sold quite a lot of tickets after charting). Majority of the people who boarded looked like students. With more people joining in, and getting late in the night - we all decided to hit our berths and retire for the night. Berths came out, bed spreads came out and lights turned off - all in a span of about 5 minutes!

For some reason, I was uncomfortable and didn't sleep quite well. I did sleep in patches - I remember the train passing Salem (did not notice the time). I slept after that until we reached Palakkad. I remember waking up with a very dry throat - we were at Palakkad station then. The train left Palakkad at around 0515hrs. I had left an alarm at 0525hrs assuming the train reaches Thrissur at 0545. I was wrong - the scheduled arrival at Thrissur was only at 0621hrs. I slept off after Palakkad - woke up after a while. I was in a state of shock - I thought the train had already passed Thrissur. I turned on maps on my phone, and realised we were nearing Thrissur. I headed to the door as the train reached Poonkunnam - lovely feeling of doorplating as we slowed down at Poonkunnam station, and then picked pace half way through with a long hoot from the loco. I returned to my seat for some time - then returned to the door as the train rolled in to the platform (0624hrs) - 3 minutes behind schedule.

My coach was towards the forward end of the rake - quite close to the forward exit of the station. I walked towards that exit, just to see the exit blocked and a police cop directing passengers to head to the main exit. The main exit had a desk set up by the state health department - all arriving passengers were screened for fever using a flash thermometer. There were cops for assistance - probably to take care of the hostile ones. The prepaid autorickshaw counter had enforced social distancing, the auto drivers were all wearing masks. Absolutely no ride refusal, and no haggling over fares either! The bus ride to my home was also peaceful - absolutely empty bus (feeling sad for the operator) and people mostly keeping distance from each other.

Journey in a Nutshell:
Train Number: 12257 Yesvantpur - Kochuveli Garib Rath Express
Loco link: WDP4D #40491 of Krishnarajapuram
Coach: G9, WCCNH1 #08123 built by Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala. Based at Yesvantpur.

Ratings:
Punctuality: 10/10 (Negligible delay)
Cleanliness: 10/10 (Absolutely clean)
Bedroll: 10/10 (Very clean, and smelled really fresh)
Catering: Not used

Overall: 10/10

The cleanliness literally shocked me. It was spotless! The railways did their job perfectly - and just hope they continue doing this in future as well. Overall excellent job by the Railways!

Comments

Sunup said…
I traveled to Ernakulam on the 13th by Island. There were plenty of seats available after charting, that too on a Friday. Out of curiosity checked yesterday's departures to Kerala from Bangalore. All trains had more than half the number of seats available after charting, with YPR>KCVL AC Express and 12684 ERS Superfast leading the pack with more than 90% seats vacant.
Like you stated, the day when I traveled there were plenty of last minute current booking pax too. There was a big bunch in my coach who were travelling to Salem and normally take the TNSTC buses. They were mentioning that with the 10% discount for current booking, they got a sweet deal when compared to the bus travel.

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