My first train journey was when I was 5 years old and traveled from a small sleepy village of South to the national capital of India decades ago and it was a first class travel, I remember it vaguely and I do not remember having come across any discomfort during the journey, and that was the only train journey which I remember and do not cringe….
After my first train journey, I traveled many times in train during vacations to get to down south, well, those journeys were terrible, for one we used to travel by general sleeper class, and I for one totally abstained my self from visiting the dirty toilets all the two and half days we had to sit in the train.. and believe me it was a tough job…then time fled I grew up , got married and started traveling in AC coach and in vain I thought we will have good facilities… it was not that bad.. but bad enough…
Then one fine day I traveled by Shatabdi to chandigarh and near by areas of Delhi, and was thrilled, not only did I like the short and sweet journeys.. I even could visit the toilet with out a scare..
And then I heard that Rajdhanis (Trains) were at par with Shatabdi’s service and cleanliness, so this vacation we took Bangalore Rajdhani from Delhi to Bangalore and to say that I was totally taken aback would be an understatement. The Train was plain dirty, the bed sheets which were given to us were having big stain marks , looked dirty and the blanket had at least a kilo of dust on it, I really thought my small children might get ill because of all this dirt. Then came the service of the food, tea was served only twice a day and that too the tea was pathetic, the sugar and tea tasted like saw dust., the meals were a welcome change and we really relished it but the moment we saw how they were arranging it and where all of us wanted to forget what we had eaten .. our seats where the first 3 seats just near the toilets and we saw these service guys dumping the trays of meal and even tea and snacks on the floor almost towards the toilet, though they had been provided with a large area near the toilet for this purpose, where they could have arranged it with out dumping it on the floor and scattering it near the toilet, it was an unsightly sight to see so much of food spilled near the toilets… argh.. We could have still managed all this if the service guys would have been a bit more cooperative and forthcoming, they looked angry and unhappy and did not like any questions being asked to them, did not like children it seemed and they looked dirty and unkempt.
An equally unkempt man used to come to clean the floors with a broom cum mop which belonged to the last century and he had a bottle of phenoil in his hand which he sprinkled on the floor and swoosh… everything was clean… supposedly.. and also there was at least a cupful of broken glass pieces on the window sill of our seats which was quite dangerous for the kids, we had to call this person specially to clean it, it seems no one had seen it while cleaning the train before the passengers board it.. The only time we saw a smile on the face of these service boys were when the came for ‘sevapani’ when we were about to get down at Bangalore…..
Wait.. the story doesn’t end here,, I had thought that New Delhi Railway station was the worst station I have ever seen.. with new sparkling exterior now it looks like a beautifully wrapped gift which has may be a dustbin inside it… well the corners near the stairs already has pan stains.. you can see cat sized rats feasting on all kinds of wastes on the tracks… the smell of urine and filth will make any body throw up then and there.. the amount of dirt on tracks including human excreta will put any ‘slumdog millionaire’ scene to shame.. It becomes difficult to have eye contact with the foreigners on the station , it makes me curl up and die.. thinking what they would be conjuring up about our cleanliness and hygiene standards….eekkksss….
Shockingly.. the same kind of dirt I saw on Bangalore Railway station, I had a misconception that south Indian Railway stations where much cleaner.. and yes one must give credit to Secunderabad station which looked clean and green with potted plants, clean floors and I even saw people spitting in to the ‘Use me’ bins… but Bangalore was an exception.. the tracks were in such a condition that I really had my sympathies for the cleaning staff who were struggling there.. the basement which takes us out of the station to the bus station.. is in dilapidated condition, with seepage, dirts and wastes and with unpleasant smells…
Would it be possible for us to ever come to the level of world class Railway service and Railway stations, it really breaks my heart when I think about the amount of tax we salaried people shell out every month after month year after year which supposedly goes in to building these services for us.. where does it actually go..??? why cant we get decent and hygienic , clean train travel.. good food.. clean stations.. service with a smile.. why cant we???
I am not blaming only the Government here, I am blaming each of us also who contribute to the filth on the stations, when it is clearly mentioned in every train lavatory not to use toilet when the train is stationary.. why cant we obey.. it ??? why oh why??? I Wish one day we would also have world class travel arrangements in our country especially with regard to Train travel and maintenance and cleanliess on Railway stations…..
I wish.. I wish.. I really really wish…..for all of us…..