Uttar Pradesh Blues
by Abhijit Lokre
An interesting observation on a recent journey from Allahabad to New Delhi. I had to travel from Allahabad to Mumbai and was figuring out the best and most affordable way to get across quickly. After checking various options (Air Sahara from Allahabad to Mumbai via Delhi, flight from Varanasi or Lucknow), I zeroed in on overnight train to New Delhi and a morning flight to Mumbai.
From the various options available for the overnight train with early arrivals, I decided on the Lichhavi express (4005 Samastipur-New Delhi) to New Delhi and a morning Jet Airways flight to Mumbai. 4005 arrives at New Delhi at 0425 and my flight was 0805, so I figured I could make it safely.
On the day of the journey, I checked on the phone about the running of 4005 and was informed that it was runnning 2 hours late. That would have meant that 4005 would be getting into Allahabad only by 2000 and getting tangled with various superfasts departing around that time. I quicky cancelled my air ticket on the phone and decided to try my luck at the airport next day.
Lichhavi express (nice name....) arrived at Allahabad at 2040 just after the 2397 Mahabodhi express to New Delhi. So that was one superfast overtake right there. Around 2105, the 4055 Brahmaputra mail arrived and departed at 2115. Second overtake. Meanwhile, we were changing locos from Jhansi's WDM2 to Kanpur's WAP4.
At 2130, the 2417 Prayag Raj express also departed. (the train I didn't book a ticket in because I thought it would get me to Delhi too late!!!). So, third overtake...at Allahabad itself.
We finally left at 2140. A little after Kanpur (after midnight), the 2559 Shiv-Ganga express and the 2553 Vaishali express overtook us....Fourth and fifth overtake...
At 0600, we crawled into Aligarh. A 100 odd km to go, I thought.....0800-0830 at New Delhi and then the 1000 flight to Mumbai. On the adjoining platform stood an innocous looking memu for Delhi. Announcements were made for its imminent departyre at 0615. We left at 0610 and 20-30 km later stopped on the main line at a station called Wair. Now, in the early hours of the morning, the nightmare began,,,,
The memu we had left behind at Aligarh came to a halt on the platform line beside us. It got the starter immediately and was off. Fair enough, I thought...daily commuters must get preference...it happens in mumbai too. 10 minutes later and we were still there. It was 0730 and WAP5 30003 hauled Shatabdi express to Lucknow screamed through relieving the tedium somewhat.
At 0800, another memu with the some wierd name (HADA or something like that) also overtook us. Seventh overtake. By now, the passengers were getting restless and a couple of us decided to pay a visit to the SM office. The ASM said that a third overtake was due in the next half hour....another memu!!! A few hardy men from the general compartments also joined us. Heated words flew across the office. The ASM invited us to talk to the controller. The controller was unrepentant. The memu would go through first, else there could be riots!! Apparently, the restless natives of Aligarh-Bulandshahr belt indulge in such activities every other day to ensure that the memus go throught before express trains. The ASM said that the Poorva too was a station behind us in much the same plight. When I asked about the RPF, he merely smirked....
What flabbergasted me was the IR attitude....If people throw stones to force their train to go ahead, might as well shut down IR and let people take over. Licchavi has a non-stop run from Kanpur to Ghaziabad and could very well have been overtaken by one memu and then departed, especially when the next one was half an hour later. And this is called the busiest section on IR!!! A co-passenger mentioned that this was an usual occurence on this route and even the Rajdhanis suffer. Any train that crosses Aligarh after 0630 has to wait for the memus and only then can they proceed. Memus ovetaking the Prayag Raj, Shivganga etc?? God save IR!!
The thrid memu went ahead (eighth overtake) and then we finally moved at 0845, after a 105 minute halt at Wair!! At Ajaibpur, we were put on the loop line. I assumed that the Rajdhanis would be overtaking us now. This time, angry passengers sormed to the SM office who promptly talked to the controller and gave us the proceed signal. At 0940, we reached Ghaziabad. After a brief halt, we proceeded towards New Delhi. At Shahibabad, we got the red again. This time it was the turn of the Kolkata Rajdhani to overtake us!! Ninth overtake.
At 1030, we arrived at New Delhi, six hours late. A quick dash to the airport and I managed to get a seat on the 1230 Spicejet flight.....which got delayed by an hour and half and I managed to get to Mumbai only by 1600, agter a thoroughly tiring journey.
I should have taken the 1094 Mahanagri express from Allahabad to Mumbai instead!! It might have been quicker!!!