It's almost a bimonthly affair now, my Hyderabad-Delhi- Hyderabad trips. What is so special about travelling between a big city and the State-Capital, you'd ask: ordinary Second Class Sleeper, 26-30 hours, the extreme weather of the plains, and rotten police afsars between Jhansi and Agra who insist on harassing anyone remotely urbane in appearance.
The price tag: Rs. 649/- one way.
The safety: I can't begin to describe the extent.
The pleasures: Countless.
Since food becomes top-priority on a long distance journey, let me begin by stating that the Indian Railways, under the guardianship of the greatly revered Railways Minister Laluji, have converted into a sort of chain of a-la-carte restaurants, the likes of food courts at malls, almost. From the heavenly, yet earthy adrak (ginger) chai, to the slightly upmarket cutlets/ omelet-bread, to the standard set meal- all at your beckoning. Did I mention the in-betweens?
Fresh, intoxicatingly sweet fruit of the season: oranges, guavas, chickoos. And about two hours before Nagpur, start the flat cries of "Agra ka Petha" and namkeen. As you manage to get over these temptations, samosas and vadas- piping hot- come knocking at the doors of your palette. So potent are their delicious smells that they possess the power to awaken you from the deepest slumber caused by the cradling motion of the train. Madhya Pradesh is the most deadly though.
The dacoits of Chambal would eat themselves if they ever knew of the culinary delights lay in the bogies of the Sampark Kranti Express: Ratlami sev and bhujia, Imarti, puri-bhaji, Mathura Laddu. It just doesn't stop!
It's a ceaseless flood now, and you'd better turn a saadhu to remain determined. To not give in. And just as you've managed to save yourself from the clutches of a night that'd lead you to a three-day course of Pudin Hara/ Eno/ Triphala, the early morning chai arrives at Mathura in heart warming kullad to break your resolution.