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Train trip: Andheri to Vapi

Monday, May 7, 2012

Train travel has always excited me, ever since my childhood days. There is something about the experiences that a train journey brings to you that makes it fun and worth all the effort and inconvenience, especially when the trains are crowded.
On my visit to Vapi, Gujarat, I decided to travel on a Tuesday. I hoped that the unreserved compartment would be empty as the weekend had just gone by.
As I had not made reservations for the train to Vapi, I decided to travel in the unreserved compartment of the Mumbai Surat Express aka Intercity Express. The train arrived at 7:06 am on platform no 8 at Andheri and was expected to reach Vapi at 9:29 am.
With a ticket for the Intercity Express, I was standing on platform no 8. The fact that there were only 10 other passengers on the platform pleased me. I thought it would increase my chances of getting a place to sit in the unreserved compartment of the train.  My watch indicated the time as 6:40 am.  As the clock struck 7:00, the platform began to suddenly get very crowded. ‘Oh God,’ I moaned. ‘Now I will never get a place to sit in the train. Forget sitting. I’d be lucky if I got a place to stand.’
No sooner did the train arrive than everyone rushed to board the compartment. Generally, I prefer to avoid crowded trains, but in this case I had no plan B in place, so I had to board the train, come what may.
The train was packed with people; luckily I got a place to stand. Guess where. Near the latrine of the compartment. It was moaning time again. ‘Oh no, this place stinks. Do I have to travel like this all the way to Vapi?’ As always there was no immediate reply to my question and I decided to manage to the best of my abilities.
Until the train reached Boisar, a pit stop on the way to Vapi, all that I could see were the people standing in front of me in the cranked up position and the people who had come to empty their tanks in the train latrine.
As people from the train exited from Boisar, I found myself a place to sit. ‘Thank You, God, for answering my prayers.’ This time I had progressed to the entrance of the compartment. It was a good place to sit plus it was blowing as though I were sitting in front of an AC. ‘I am loving it.’
Having found a good place to sit in the train, I began to do what I do best – Observe.
The chilly breeze running through my hair and the chills that I was increasingly beginning to feel did not in any way deter me from sitting near the doorway and enjoying the view outside.
I saw a few houses near the tracks. The children who were playing near the houses stopped to see us pass by and waved out to me. I waved back enthusiastically. The smiles on their faces bought a smile on my face. For all I know, they might be waving out to all the trains that pass by on this track. I didn’t care. I felt good.
Later I saw a cluster of houses in the distance. They sat there, untouched by the excitement and upheaval that the train brought into their lives. They seemed to take each day as it comes, leading a worriless and stress free life.
The train crossed over a few water bodies on the manmade bridges built over them. Most of the water had dried up as we were nearing the summer season. In the water I saw a few women washing their clothes in the water.
When I wash my clothes, I put them in a washing machine, press a few buttons on it and, hey presto, the machine washes them for me.
I have never had the experience of washing my clothes in a setting like this. In the villages, washing clothes is a chore performed by the womenfolk. They wash clothes near the water bodies and then dry them on the rocks nearby. So after a wash in the water they get dried on the rocks under the gaze of the hot sun, making the clothes crisp.
The day I upgrade to becoming an offbeat traveler, I’ll be doing all this. I smiled at the thought.
A few cattle were having a nice bath in the water. I didn't let myself dwell too long on what that implied, but shifted my gaze to some other cattle that were grazing in the fields.
I saw fields full of dried grass all around the tracks. Minutes later the view changed to coconut trees and palm trees, only to be replaced later by chikoo trees.
I love chikoos and chikoo milkshake too. And here I saw whole farms of chikoos. This is the largest plantation in Maharashtra. It felt nice to know that all the chikoos that I had ever eaten had sprung from this soil.
I saw a few people walking with bags in their hands in the middle of nowhere. I guess they were walking to the nearest railway station in order to board a train to go to work. In the villages most people are not very well off. So if they stay far away from the closest railway line, they have to walk. They have no other option.
Finally the train reached Vapi railway station at 9:35 am.
I have always found train travel exciting, and this time was no exception. This time I saw houses with tiled roofs, children playing nearby, farms everywhere, coconut, palm and chickoo trees, and water bodies. When I travel by train in Mumbai, all I can see are buildings built dangerously close to the railway tracks, and creeks.
I wish I could see a view like this every day in the city. I guess that is practically impossible. Fortunately, travelling outside the city is possible. That is why I head out of the city every time I get an opportunity to do so. You too should make a trip and enjoy the scenic views outside the city.


Sheldon Quinny said...

Great Review...Good Luck on the wirteup.


As always well written Merwyn..
it feels great to read ur blogs..

Weekend Wanderer-Aashish Chawla said...

nice blog matter of fact i used to travel almost once a week to vapi for a year so i can understand the emotion very well


Thanks Aashish, Kintan and Sheldon for your comments

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