Written by Umang Saini
For me, Indians are perennially obsessed by **The Raj** that ruled us for nearly 3 centenaries. And the change is irreversible. We have a portion of them in our blood, which trickles down to every new generation. And among many such Raj components inside us, perhaps the biggest besides English is The Rajdhani, oops the Indian Railways.
Give or take anything, it was the Raj, that set the foundations of the behemoth that Railways is today. It carries 1.6 crore passengers daily, 600 crore annually and 750 million tonnes of freight annually. It is the world's biggest organization with 1.6 million employees and is the single most critical transport component in the long and wide state of India.
Come again, what am I trying to put forth in this post. The king within the railways of-course, is not the minister, but The Rajdhani. I recently made the 2500 km trip from Delhi to Bangalore, and was taken aback by what was in store. Yes, this was my first time. And to summarise the experience, -- If there is anyplace a common Indian man/woman can feel like **The King**, it is if he is onboard of this Indian Railways premiere rail.
What is the charm of travelling in Rajdhani? Several people have been there, done that and it has been written over several times. One may be tempted to push it aside as another mediocre attempt, and the only noticeable difference is the free food for which the ticket is already substantially overpriced. And skeptics may go on to say - its not the common man that boards the AC coaches of Rajdhani, its only the upper middle class who are rich enough for Rajdhani, but not for an air ticket.
Let me set the roll clear.
Delhi-Bangalore - Baseline Cheapest Air ticket - Rs. 2999 (if you book over 2 weeks or sometimes 2 months in advance.)
Delhi-Bangalore - Baseline Rajdhani - Rs. 2150 (Ac 3 tier) - At all times.
Services on the low cost airliner - Zilch
Services on the Rajdhani - Unlimited
You have anything and everything on a Rajdhani which you wanted, or at least you are made to feel like it. An Indian who thinks thrice before spending a rupee, is served 3 cooked hot meals, given juice twice a day, unlimited mineral water, unlimited tea/coffee served regularly, and snacks to round this off. And, no the meal is not the regular run-of-the-mill railway type of food. It is food that will make every 100 rupee thali red with envy - both in taste, quantity and quality. So effectively for a 2150 ticket, they give you 4 - Rs. 100 thalis, lots of packaged content MRP for which is easily over Rs. 150 + miscellaneous cooked snacks and a no-non-sense service!
Are you even aware of this? Some will say, oh ya, what's the point. We all knew this, this is nothing special, just packaged hot meal. I would say, there's plenty more to it than meets the eye. The mix of passengers was electic - from retired senior families to young commodity traders. From free-government-ride employees to newly weds. The variety is endless. All these people board the Rajdhani as a preferrence over Air ticket and other cheaper trains. Why?
1. It takes 36 hours vs. 42 of any other train
2. It serves **Free Unlimited Food**
3. The service is impeccable, nearly 99% on time (better than flights) and for one day and two nights, we are not running the rat race of the outside world. For 36 hours, I felt out of this world, not just to a place which serves free food, but a place which gave me attention/ importance/ significance and ample time to think.
I say this is an un believable deal. At 2150 - 36 hours of time beyond this world is very very cheap and available over the counter. So when you are with a travel plan - choose Rajdhani this time, I am sure you will enjoy more than any other mode.