How often does an Indian railways train get that same look of reverence from people on Indian railway platforms that a Rolls-Royce would command on Indian roads? The brand-new Tejas Express sure comes very close, and my latest train ride to Goa revealed why.
The train departs at an ungodly hour of 5am, so I was initially confused if I should wake up at 4am or should simply stay awake till then, because the former involved an element of never-tried-before risk. But once the train journey started, I quickly thanked myself for deciding to catch some sleep before the ride!
The route cuts right through the heart of nature and the drama of its green blood splashing past, slowly unfolds, as the curtains of darkness go up, with the rising morning sun. The plush, air-conditioned, train thanks to its well-appointed elegance and impressive interiors, exudes a classy feel. Admiring the stunning idyllic scenes that are paraded past on the outside, while sitting comfortably cocooned in this swanky, new Tejas express coach, scanning through the morning newspapers, engenders an unbounded ecstasy. Well, not really unbounded. The confining, tiny seats quickly put brakes on the burgeoning ecstasy and made me wonder if the cramped seats were designed with the aim of preventing passengers from sleeping off even for a moment! The train service, certainly managed to keep all the passengers pampered at all times though. The attendant kept dishing out meal after meal- First tea, then breakfast, followed by snacks and finally lunch, before he finally ran out of opportunities to serve more food because the destination arrived.
So Tejas express marks such a huge stride forward in terms of quality! Apart from a few minor blemishes that certify its Indian railway origins, everything else seems to belong to a class, so far only considered the preserve of airlines or European trains.
As the train made its way, slowly pulling into railway stations for halts, and as I stared out of the window, I was invariably greeted by this surprising but delightful sight of people on platforms filming me, the train, with their phone cameras. It served as a quick reminder that the train is truly a showstopper and turns just as many heads on Indian railway platforms as a Rolls-Royce would on Indian roads! But having said that, it feels as if it only sports a Chevrolet engine strapped onto the Rolls’ luxury, which means the train took me to Goa in 10.5 hours, with a 2-hour delay (airlines take 1 hour). That is the sole reason, I believe, Tejas express can’t supplant airlines, although it definitely manages to take the train travel experience in India to a whole new level. So to conclude, among all the technical and non-technical benefits of this 5am train schedule, one certainly was that, my Goa trip delight began with the train journey itself!