A first person account: How my Shatabdi journey turned into 11-hour ordeal
But my 11-hour Shatabdi journey from Delhi to Chandigarh on Sunday, which was not less than an ordeal, has now compelled me to review my options while travelling to Delhi in future.punjab Updated: Oct 13, 2017 20:03 IST
As a frequent visitor to Gurgaon, I undoubtedly relied upon the Kalka-New Delhi Shatabdi Express for my commute as a little over three-and-a-half hour journey to the national capital never made the Delhi ‘duur’ for me. But my trust on the country’s supposedly “superfast” train was shattered on Sunday as I along with my sister set out to return to Chandigarh from Delhi.
The train was scheduled for a 5.15pm departure and 8.40pm arrival in Chandigarh.
As we reached the station, a group of coolies surrounded us and even after refusal, they kept snatching our luggage bags. One even started walking with them keeping one on his head and another in hand. I literally had to scream at them after which they backed off. However, they kept saying from behind, “Train to ni milti apko madam, chhoot gayi apki train. Nahi pohonch payengi aap. Arey koi fayda nahi train chhoot jaegi hume de dijiye samaan hum pohncha denge.”
After listening to this, my sister looked at me and said, “Babe, we can’t make it from platform 16 to one in 10 minutes let’s hire a coolie.” I was determined not to give up but one of the coolies came forward and held onto my sister’s bag by then. Dejected, I too handed over my bag while she negotiated and settled at Rs 100 for the transport.
Finally, at platform 2, moving towards the stairs for platform 1 where we could see our train stationed, I asked the coolie, “Bhaiya thora tez chaloge nikal jayegi train.”
“Nahi jaegi madam apki train ek ghanta late hai,” he replied. He knew it all along that the train was late, but didn’t inform us earlier.
Finally, we settled on our seats and the train left the platform a few minutes after the new departure time of 6.15pm.
The despair begins
The train pulled up at Ganaur station and remained halted there for over two hours. The small deserted station offered nothing to eat or drink. The train staff had already served the snacks for the evening train by then.
Passengers stepped down to stretch their bodies meanwhile. Some indulged in rumour mongering as others quietly strolled along.
As no one knew the reason for the halt, I asked a Railway Protection Force (RPF) official who attributed the stoppage to some construction work of underpass going on along the railway track.
Inside the coach, an elderly man had set the mood with old Kishor Kumar songs on his laptop that blissfully massaged our stress. In front of me was a lady coming from New York, who was regretting to have chosen this train ride instead of her pre-booked cab.
Till now, neither any official announcement was made nor did any official come to inform us about the situation.
We were not served any refreshment or given another water bottle. My sister, however, went to the pantry and asked for tea. The staffer there said that the stock was for the morning train but he could arrange something if she could take care of “chai paani” for him. A tea lover that she is, obviously obliged.
Celebrating Karwa Chauth on-board
At Bhodwal Majri, we saw a gentleman fulfilling his wife’s ‘Karwa Chauth’ rituals via Skype. At the same time, the elderly man was playing the song, ‘Chand phir nikla, magar tum na aaye, jala mera dil, karu kya main haaye’. I googled the song and got to know that it is from a 1957 movie called ‘Paying Guest’.
At 12.25am, we had only reached Panipat where the train stopped again. By now, even the melodies of Kishore Kumar had died down after several reruns.
Finally, we reached the Chandigarh railway station at around 3.45am, and it took me another hour to reach home. On my way, I wondered how many amazing places in the country I could have reached within these 11 hours. But then, what’s better than home?