In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
Saturday 17th November 2001
Left hotel at 0900 after a good night’s sleep and an excellent American breakfast. It makes a pleasant change to eat something other than Indian food. Juice, scrambled eggs, Cornflakes, tea and toast.
Started train journey at 1035, on time, the only time we were on time for nearly a day. There were porters in red robes with metal armbands with their number on it, very old British Raj. The journey went on all day, and we arrived in Delhi at 2030, which was 10 hours to cover 310 kms, or an average speed of 31kmh. That is about 19 mph.
We stopped just about everywhere, and this was an express. People milling around everywhere on the platforms of the stations we stopped at. Some had European dress, some dhotis, tucked up between their legs. Some had sandals, or normal shoes or barefoot. There were also long linen trousers with long jackets hanging to the knees. Many had a sort of cloth slung round their shoulders, others had a cloth wrapped around their heads. Others still had a turban, and some carried umbrellas
Every time the train stopped at a station it was besieged by a small army of vendors, selling water, sweets, fruit, nuts, bananas, tea and hot food. Soma had twisted cane baskets with metal trays on top. There were tiled water stands on the platforms, pumping out water. The towns and villages in the background were seen beyond the station. Seldom did they run to more than one story, occasionally two. Sophomoric atmosphere in the overheated train. We were in an air-conditioned carriage, but it seemed to make no difference. The fans whirred uselessly around, circulating hot air. Most people slept, and we all dozed from time to time. We were in first class, so no more complaints about Connex south east.
The toilets were indescribable, like mediaeval torture instruments. Grey pipes running everywhere. No toilet bowl, simply a hole in the ground, eastern style. Very smelly. The floor was running with water
The Dehra Dun Express covered 310 kms in 10 hours. That is 196 miles, 19.6 mph.
Delhi railway station was crowded and noisy with large black rats running all over the tracks. Announcements made over P/A in English and Hindi. Figures for people who speak Hindi vary between 20 and 40%. Once again much confusion on the platforms with loads of people in different dress styles all over the place. Vendors again selling a wide variety of items, but no newspapers on sale at the paper stall. Heavily laden hand carts being pushed around the platform. As trains pulled into or pulled out of stations, passengers would rush onto the tracks to jump on board, apparently oblivious of life and limb.
We had a first class sleeper, from Delhi, in what was a six berth cabin. Nidish was down the carriage a way. The others in our berth were Indians, one a man, or woman, couldn’t tell which, who was losing the pigmentation in his/her skin. The bed above me was occupied by a man and his wife. It was close, noisy, with people snoring or coughing all night, and not easy to get to sleep, although I managed a couple of hours.
Sunday 18th November 2001
Arrived at Sawai Madhpur pretty well on schedule at about 0515. From Delhi we covered 362 kms or 224 miles in 7 hours at about 32 mph. This is the Mumbai (Bombay) express. Glad to get off train.
Written by my Father B.M