Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vanga to Magadha: Part I – Waka Waka this time for Kolkata

Vanga to Magadha: Part I – Waka Waka this time for Kolkata

Visiting Calcutta was one of my old dreams. When I was a kid, I heard about people going to Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Coimbatore, Bangalore, Mangalore etc. but never heard about anyone taking a train to Calcutta to build a new life. May be a lot of people went, but I never heard. For long this Capital of East, a wealthy city in the past remained in dreams only. 

One month back my friend and colleague Vivek invited me for his marriage in Patna. The next question was how to reach there? Our first option was Sanghmitra Express. However, for seeing Calcutta we dropped this train and booked tickets in YPR-HWH express.

Finally, on Tuesday evening we – Me, Ankit and Antony (Three Men in a boat) – left Bangalore for Calcutta. Train was on time, and we started crossing stations one by one. Train was fully packed by the time we left ‘KR Puram’. Next in the line was ‘Whitefield’; in that night, station building constructed using stone and painted in white looked more like ghost buildings in movies. Railway unions made sure that, the building would not look good by pasting their ads.

From Karnataka we moved to Andra for a while and then reached Tamil Nadu. Without failure Vodafone welcomed as whenever we are crossed state borders. However their services mostly limited to that welcome messages and voice only. Better to say nothing about 2G data quality.

By morning we arrived at Chirala station. Large number of Lorries were going in and out. Antony was sleeping in the upper berth; Ankit was on other side of the train. He was supposed to join with us in the morning.

By the time we reached Tenali Jn, everyone woke up from the sleep. Train was full of vendors – both from IRCTC and local ones – moving back and forth eatable items. Some people were wearing long chains of Gutka and pan-masala packets around their necks and serving a large consumer base. Full effect of pan masala sales were visible in the gap between bogies and washbasins. Those red coloured disgusting patterns in the floors.

Still no information about Ankit. Finally I started walking towards his berth on other end of the train. Many were sleeping, some were playing cards. By 9.30AM we reached Krishna. For river also lean season is going on, more than two thirds of the land under the bridge were covered by sand.

Soon we were in Vijayawada Jn - a main junction in the route; here train stopped for 30 minutes. I started walking to and fro in the platform. At one end TTE was shouting at a tea vendor for giving him cold and tasteless tea. Shop owner told him that the tea he serves is an excellent one and assure him an extra one. I too ordered one tea, it was hotter. However, simply heating the water won’t make tea any better.

It is interesting – after a while boring – to see both sides of the track in these areas. Vast agro fields wearing green saries were laying in the bare earth for long stretches. This beautiful landscape was enriched by the presence of large number of black stemmed palm trees. A good background for shooting beautiful movie songs. By this time, I found out Ankit. He was happily sleeping in a side upper berth.

By 12.30PM, we reached one of the biggest and sacred rivers in Andra – Godavari, a visual treat for eyes. If the train could go a little bit slow…!!!

Post lunch there weren't much things to do. Outside, it’s still those agro fields. I went for a long sleep; Ankit and Antony were busy with movies.

Long sleep in the day time, helped me to stay awake in the night. We were moving fast across Odisha to recover the time we missed in day time. In between I slept for some more time; when woke up were in the Capital of Odisha. Soon we entered Cuttack station, back to this legendary city after almost three years. Some more minutes to reach Great Mahanadi River– the pride of Odisha. Person sitting next to me told that, it would take 4 minutes for a train to cross the bridge across Mahanadi.

At 4 ‘o’ clock we reached Khargpur station. This station once had (now third after Gorakhpur and Kollam) the lengthiest platform in the world. One guy sitting next to me told that, five trains can stand back to back in this platform!!! Please note that, platform’s length is 1.072KM.  I was so eager to put my foot on this platform that I jumped outside and walked through the platform at 4 ‘O’ clock in the morning!!!

Finally it’s time to take some rest. By morning we were entering Calcutta city. As expected we reached the outskirts of the city in the early morning itself. However, it took another one hour to reach Howrah terminal – a mammoth station with more than 20 platforms. Waka Waka this time for Calcutta. We slowly went outside and start searching for a hotel.


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