Travelling is no easy job. With all the pop culture romanticizing of travel and wanderlust, the ground realities of such hobbies are very different in a country like ours. Hitchhiking, road trips, backpacking and gap year travelling-all of these seem a very good idea, but only on paper. Today’s youth are greatly influenced by the euro centric ideas of a general standard of living, purchasing power and everything in general. As a consequence, this affects their ideas of leisure tourism which could not be further away from the reality of third world countries.
There are hardly any clean broad avenues lined with lush green artificially landscaped trees, sprawling metropolises, friendly locals, or exotic cafes. But these are not essentially deal breakers for any avid traveller in the subcontinent. It is the mode of transportation that irks most-and is nothing like what European-American media propagates. Efficient subways and country rails have one substitute in India, i.e. the Indian Railways. This fourth largest network of railways in the world is the life-blood of the largest growing economy in the world. But travellers somehow do not seem to be impressed.
For budget conscious Indians, this remains the most viable form of travelling. It’s comparatively faster than roadways and waterways, and a hell lot cheaper than flying. It is not the railways or trains that are bothersome to a tourist- both domestic as well as foreign. It is the facilities or services provided by the railways –rather the lack of them. Tourists are generally a patient lot-hence they do not seem to mind the efficiency and punctuality issues of our railways. Or it might just be the least of their concerns. However, hygiene and management of public are whole different story altogether.
Be it a business trip, holiday with friends and family or just a visit to a relative living on the other side of this vast nation, nobody likes the chaos and mismanagement they face in the railway stations. No one likes to be shoved around by an unruly mob of porters or standing in a snaking queue. And hygiene standards of the railways could put any ghetto settlement to shame. But, somewhere, we are forced to spare a though for the authorities since it is a gigantic task in itself to maintain such a huge network. While safety and budget friendliness are the main priorities, some things have to take a backseat.
However, what’s beyond comprehensions is the quality of food served in trains. Stale, tasteless and unpalatable –the three magic words that define the food served in trains. The train food service is as pathetic as it can get. The people working for the railway catering are rude, greedy and inattentive-making the lives of the Indian tourist miserable. Things are far worse for long distance travellers, as they have to stay on the train overnight, and it isn’t always possible to find food on the stations in such a short time. So, they are mostly dependant on the food provided in the train, which being inedible often times lead to the passengers sleeping on empty stomach or carrying food from home. But now, there are some online food delivery companies, which have started the train food service to end the woes of food problem.