Usually when you hear the word ‘special’ you think it means better than normal – faster, prettier, tastier… Whatever the special item is, it should go beyond the normal version. Imagine my disappointment when the ‘special’ train from Hyderabad to Chennai, instead of taking the scheduled 12 hours for the journey, took a whopping 20 hours start to finish and departed 2 1/2 hours late. I left Hyderabad at 9:00pm on Thursday and arrived in Chennai at 4:00pm yesterday. This ordeal made the 1 hour flight from Hyderabad to Chennai look like a dream. This train should have been called the ‘sucky’ train. Cuz it sucky suck sucked!
I really don’t know why it was called the ‘special’ train – maybe it meant especially slow or especially dirty, or stopping way too especially often. It seemed like every hour or half hour we would stop for ten or twenty or one hundred minutes. We would let every other train in the vicinity pass and then we would proceed along on our plodding journey.
Of course there were no announcements to tell me why we had stopped or when we would start again. I think I only saw a railway employee on the train once throughout the whole journey. But no one seemed very agitated, everyone just took it in stride. This is India after all, and I have learned that this country runs on its own time.
I wasn’t alone for this horribly long journey, I had three wonderful gentleman for company – the Manager and Accountant from the Kaliyampoondi Child Haven home who went to Hyderabad for accounting purposes, and the Assistant Manager of the Hyderabad Child Haven home who was going to Chennai to visit his family. We had been put on the waiting list for tickets for this ‘special’ train and when it came time to board we still only had two confirmed seats. We all got on the train though and eventually (by 11:30) we all, thankfully, had a place to sleep.
I did actually managed to get a little sleep that night. I was very glad that I had the foresight to bring my travel sheet, travel pillow and my yak wool shawl for a blanket. I was well insulated away from the dirt and grime, and quite comfortable considering my surroundings. There are eight beds in each small area and 40 beds per train compartment. I was in one of the top bunks, which I prefer. This coveted position allows one the option of going to bed and getting up whenever they want, also you don’t have to worry as much about people watching you or trying to steal your belongings.
The train was pretty filthy to begin with and by the end it was abysmal. My pants were white at the beginning of the journey and a nice shade or grayish brown by the end. The seats were stained black from years of travel and lack of cleaning. There were remnants of food and bits of trash everywhere. But there were no bugs and there were no rats, I was extremely grateful for this.
The toilets were typical of India trains. A simple squat toilet that led directly to the tracks, a water tap for washing yourself, and a handle to ride out the bumps and jumps of the train. They weren’t too horrible at the beginning. Much cleaner than a western toilet would have been, in fact I didn’t even look in the bathroom with the western toilet, they are inevitably far more disgusting than their Indian counterparts. It wasn’t until mid morning that the toilet situation took a turn towards the nasty. I opened the door to one bathroom and there on pan of the squat toilet was a huge pile of shit. There was no attempt to wash it away – someone just did their dirty deed and didn’t think it at all necessary to clean up after themselves. Needles to say, I avoided this toilet for the rest of the journey.
Sounds like a pretty a horrible journey right. To make matters worse, it was also the first day of my period. Sorry for the intimate details, but Aunt Flow visited at the worst possible place and time. As any woman can attest to, traveling is not what one wants to be doing at this time of the month. Curling up in the fetal position – yes… Spending endless hours on a slow moving train – not so much…
So I laid down several times, read a little, watched a movie on my laptop, and counted the hours slowly going by. I’m sure things could have been much worse. I had to keep reminding myself of the good things – there was some beautiful scenery along the way, some very nice people in the seats next to us. I had some wonderful travel companions and some good memories of the time we spent together.
The total travel time from the Hyderabad home to the Kaliyampoondi home was just about 32 hours. Crazy, I know. I have learned my lesson – no more ‘special’ trains for me. No more ‘special’ anything for me. It is a term that seems destined for disappointment and I am perfectly happy with the ordinary.
Have you had any harrowing travel mishaps? Any drawn out departures and delays in reaching your destination? How you do cope with these situations?
Thanks for reading!