Thanks to the disruption of airline services due to inimical weather and strikes by pilots, I am once again able to enjoy a train journey. Ever since I became “eligible” for “travel by air” in my organisation, the only time I got to travel by train was while going to my hometown on personal visits.
With the advent of computerised reservation which facilitates even return reservation bookings well in advance, I began wondering why I gave in to the temptation of travelling by air. True, the air fare is borne by my organisation and therefore does not make a hole in my purse. But, should this be the only reason for travelling by air?
While travel by air may cut down on the actual time spent travelling, with most airports being a good distance away from the city areas, the whole thing works out to be an exercise in futility. Imagine cruising a distance of 35 km from my residence to reach Palam in a three-wheeler at some unearthly hour like 4 am and then travelling about the same distance upon reaching my destination for checking into a hotel or attending a meeting. Then, there is a long wait for checking the tickets, luggage, etc., coupled with last-minute announcements of delays in departure.
And, though not frequently, there is also the possibility that your plane might not be able to land at your destination due to inimical weather.
Imagine taking a flight at 10 pm for Calcutta for which you will have to start from home at 7 pm and by the time you check into a suitable hotel, it will be well past 1 am. And what if the grub served on the flight happens to be insipid and bland. You cannot come out on any ‘station’ platform to munch your favourite food items.
Instead, take a Rajdhani in the evening and if you don’t like the food served by them, you have the option to snatch some bites at the next station. You can have a nice sleep in the cosy AC compartment and by the time you reach Calcutta you are fresh, vibrant and energetic. You can change your attire in the well-maintained waiting room and you are ready for your scheduled meeting. If you are through with your work on time, you can catch the same Rajdhani in the evening.
In the process, apart from your comfort, you also save a few bucks in the form of hotel charges for your organisation. Ditto for Bombay.
Or if you are going to Kanpur, Chandigarh or Gwalior, catch the Shatabdi which appears like any Boeing from the inside. You have good music to immerse yourself in, newspapers to catch up on the latest and tea, breakfast, lunch and dinner, whatever may be the case will come at regular intervals. No intruder is allowed and you can peacefully dose off if you want to or you can utilise the time to catch up on some new book.
Take the case of my flying from Jaipur to Delhi about two years ago. The flight was at 9 am but we had to wake up at five in the morning to get ready, have breakfast and reach the airport. The flight was bang on time but it happened to be a Sunday and for the first time I missed the popular serial Mahabharata. And, when we reached Delhi airport, some snag developed and the cargo door refused to open for four good hours. By the time we reached home, it was already evening and the entire day was absolutely spoiled.
In contrast, if we had travelled by the Pink City Express, we would have saved on hotel charges for a day and would have reached home well in time and enjoyed Mahabharata.
Published in The Pioneer (newspaper) on February 10, 1994.