Friday, July 29, 2016

#MyTrainStory - I Saw God in a Hoodie

This would normally be considered as the Hood of God:

However, I am referring to God in a Hoodie. More specifically - in a Raincoat Hoodie which looks more like this:

I was in the Maharashtra section of the Western Ghats for 2 days in July, 2016. One of the objectives of being there was to take a photo of a train traversing through the Bhor Ghat in the Monsoon. After a lot of asking around I was shown - what the locals considered to be one of the best spots to see a train climbing up the Ghat. The spot may have been perfect but I could not even see the track through the heavy mist, low clouds and lashing rain. I did not even know the direction in which to look for the track - it was so densely misty. The weather had been very bad through the 2 days I spent here. This was my last chance to get lucky!

The vantage spot was just behind a small and old temple (said to be about 600 years old) called the Waghjai Temple. Waghjai is possibly the local representation of Goddess Durga.I left my vantage point and went to the temple. I prayed to the Goddess to be given a chance to photograph this old scene from my mind's eye. I then returned to the same vantage point.

As I was on the way to the vantage point I saw a man - in a raincoat hoodie. He had trekked up to the spot where I was from a lower point on the ghat. I asked him if was local and if he could help me. He said he as not local but could help. I asked him for the direction in which to look to see the railway track on Bhor Ghat. He pointed out and said 'look in that direction!' The direction that he pointed out had no visibility of even the hill - the railway track was just a molehill in comparison. I then thought that my prayer needed to work to clear the weather and place a train on the track.

The man in the hoodie then said, "I can hear the hooting of a train!". I quickly set-up my camera and looked up. As I looked up the weather had cleared completely over the area that I wanted visibility and I got a splendid view of the Bhor Ghat with a Python of the Indian Railway (as long goods trains are called) emerging from Tunnel No. 48.

(Click on the photo to enlarge: The Train emerging from Tunnel No.48)

The rain had also stopped. I shot about 10 images in the next two or three minutes as the train emerged from the tunnel stayed in clear view for a short while and then disappeared into the mist. The mountains got cloaked once again by low hanging clouds and it started pouring again.

(Click on the photo to enlarge: The Train on Bhor Ghat)

Sagar Billimoria ( he mentioned his name in the very brief conversation between the train emerging from the tunnel and disappearing into the misty mountains) was nowhere to be seen.
If it wasn't God, it was certainly God's messenger in a hoodie.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Untrained to Board - #MyTrainStory

Trains are usually like cameras.You have to decide on the focal point before clicking. The destination has to be decided before boarding. There are a few trains like Lytro - the new age camera - where you first shoot and decide the focal point later.
This is the train that I boarded from the Krantivira Sangolli Rayanna railway station - more easily remembered as the Bangalore City Railway Station or just SBC in Railway parlance.
(Can you see two trains in this picture!)

Its ok to call a Spade a Spade. But, to call this train 'a train' may not be as correct. Let me explain!
I was at the Krantivira Sangolli Rayanna (station code SBC and not KSR as KSR is an existing code for Kasturi in Uttar Pradesh) railway station at 1900 hours for boarding Train Number 16523 scheduled for departure from Platform Number 5 at 2030 hours. That is, I was in the railway station on the departure platform 90 minutes before departure of the Bangalore Karwar Express - my destination being Mangalore. There was some other train on the platform when I reached there. As the clock ticked there was no sign of my train. The reason for the train not being placed on the platform even at 1945 hours was obvious. Till Train No. 16517, bound for Kannur in Kerala, moved out - the Karwar bound train could not be placed there.
There is no dearth of photo opportunities on Indian platforms. The photographer in me kept me busy snapping (though not at people's heels!) while waiting for the Karwar bound train to arrive - freshly cleaned - from the railway yard. Krantivira Sangolli Rayanna (you see the name has to be drilled down through repetition) handles 88 trains a day and is used by 220,000 commuters daily. Originating trains are brought into the Platform of Orgin from the yard only about 40 minutes before departure for effective utilisation of the platform. It was now 2015 hours with no sign of the train. The Kannur Express had been occupying the platform for more than 75 minutes - a little unusual - I thought. I was certain Karwar Express would be delayed if Kannur Express did not move out soon.
At 2020 hours I rechecked my ticket for correctness of date and the electronic display to check if I was on the correct platform. There was no error. 2025 hours - the departure was at 2030 hours - I checked at the Higginbothams stall - 'when do you think Kannur Express will leave and Karwar Express be place on this platform?'. He barked an answer. This put the wheels of my luggage and my legs through a stress test. I had not run half as fast - as I did then- in atleast the last decade. My soft luggage has wheels but is indulged like a petulant baby which refuses to walk but wants only to be carried. This was the day when neither my legs nor the wheels of my luggage could fail. As I heaved by luggage into my designated coach - we made it - but just. The engine hooted and the train pulled out of the platform.
In India, everyone helps. Just ask anyone - porters, vendors - at Railway Stations. They'll help. The Higginbothams vendor saved my trip by saying 'run this is this Karwar Express!' I ran without questioning his wisdom - he looked like someone who understood the goings-on here as well as someone working with the South Western Railways(SWR). Only after boarding did the TTE (Travelling Ticket Examiner) educate me that Bangalore Karwar Express (Train No. 16523) is clubbed with Bangalore Kannur Express (Train No. 16517) till Mangalore. The first half of the train was Bangalore Karwar Express and the second half of the same train was Bangalore Kannur Express. I had approached Platform No. 5 from the rear - all the signages here read Bangalore Kannur (16517) Express. As I raced toward the front of the train, I could see the electronic display reading Bangalore Karwar Express.
(The same engine hauls both these trains - simultaneously)
This was my first experience of a two in one train. This was not just 'a train' - it is the Lytro of the Indian Railways - well sort of!