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Why would anyone in their right mind want to travel for 25 days on Indian railways without taking a break?

The question itself has the answer. The first of my 12 projects proves that there might be many things right about me. But my mind is not one of them.

 

As a kid, I would lose myself looking outside the window of the Netravati Express(while biting the cold iron bars of the window). This was long before Konkan Railway was born. The train would take 48 hours to reach Mangalore in Karnataka from Mumbai after crossing all four states in South India.

For most this was a painful trip. Not for me though.

I would relish those days like one would enjoy hot & sweet Indian tea which can only be sipped slowly. From the salted cucumbers in Andhra to egg biriyani and dosas in Kerala – the train wasn’t just a smorgasbord of taste, but also of sights.

It was then that I had imagined – how would it be to travel across the entire country on trains? Every possible train and go to the farthest points of this crazy nation.

Somehow, that thought stayed with me and here I am trying to fulfil it through ‘The 12 Project’.

Here is what I am going to do:

  • I start on the Mandovi express from Mumbai to Madgaon in Goa – only and only because it enjoys the reputation of serving the best food across passenger trains in India.
  • After a break in Udupi, I will reach Kochi in Kerala on the Netravati Express to meet a friend. I hope he will get me some spice laden mutton and some great toddy during the break.
  • Then to Kaniyakumari, the last railway station in the south. In fact, it is the tip of the Indian peninsula.

Now, here things will start getting more interesting.

 

  • I will board the Dibrugarh Vivek Express, the longest train journey in India – 4300 kms and 72 hours(that is, if it does not get delayed). Even the thought of being on the second class compartment of this train gives me joy and anxiety in equal measure.
  • From Dibrugarh, I will get to Ledo. To my knowledge it is the easternmost station in the country though I believe freight trains go beyond Ledo as well.
  • Then I will travel westwards and reach New Jalpaiguri which is in West Bengal. I am still in the east right? But can you believe that this journey from Dibrugarh to Jalpaiguri will take me almost 24 hours. That itself should give us an idea about how colossal our country is.
  • After enjoying the ride on the toy train to Darjeeling, I will eventually find myself in Kolkata.
  • New Delhi will eventually arrive after a couple of trains take me through Bihar. People tell me that this stretch might have the most shocking sights and moments for me.
  • Once I get to Delhi and later to Katra, the challenge will be then to get to Baramulla – the last station in the north. I hope to spend a night in Srinagar before traveling southwards and experience the beautiful landscapes of the Kangra valley railway.
  • Then from Kalka, I will probably take the most unique train on Indian railways – The Kalka- Simla Motor Rail. It is almost like a car on tracks and a ride worth remembering.
  • Then over the next few days crossing the states of Punjab and Rajasthan, I will make it to Okha in Gujarat – the western tip of Indian railways.
  • Then a couple more days and if everything goes well, I should be home in Mumbai. Phew!

The Good

 

What better way to experience the diversity of this country than 25 intense days on its rail network?

I am sure these days will teach me more about India than my last 32 years have.

Food, people, landscapes and the trains will fill my days with joy for sure. Plus, after all, how many people are lucky enough to bring back the gravel from the last stations in every major direction in this country. Not many, I guess.

The Bad

 

Travelling non-stop can be a challenge anywhere, any time and on any form of transport. 25 days, on 25 trains in India will be a test of both my will and my bowels. The cold second class berth will be my bed every night except five.

Sounds challenging? It gets worse…

The Really Bad

 

I suffer from claustrophobia. After the doors & windows are shut and the lights go out, I am unable to sleep. It almost seems as if the compartment is closing in on me. Breathing becomes more difficult than lifting heavy weights.

Why am I traveling 25 days on Indian railways without taking a break then? I dreamt of traveling my country on trains and I believe a fear should not stop me from doing so. And in that act of defiance, I hope the fear itself disappears.

May be that is why I am doing this. Probably like some of you are, even I am watching myself closely.

The Plan

Date Stop
Sunday,8th February Udupi, Karnataka
Tuesday,10th February Kochi, Kerala
Monday,16th February Dibrugarh, Assam
Friday,20th February 12 hour day break in Kolkata, West Bengal
Monday,23rd February 12 hour day break in New Delhi
Tuesday,24th February Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
Friday,27th February Chandigarh,Wednesday
No break till Mumbai- Wednesday 4th March

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