Whoever thought AC coaches are luxury!

I am back from the “Shoe-less trip’ through Kerala. More on the trip later.

I had alighted the Ananthpuri Express today at Tambaram this morning after a night in AC 3 Tier from Nagarcoil.  I was travelling in IIIA coach.  Now whoever thought Air Conditioned travel is luxury read this!

Unfortunately, I am a ‘wide-girth’ traveller (add 6.2 feet of height).  As always, my luck regurgitates the mucus and spits it on me every time I book on III AC on the internet well in advance. Yet again I was dumped on a side upper berth. Luck was a little on my side as it was not the usual Berth no 64 that I always end up with. This time, I beat it by half to 32.  All my hopes of exchanging it or occupying an un-occupied lower berth shattered once I entered the coach of the train that just arrived from TVC. The coach was FULL and everybody wants to upto Chennai Egmore. Of all the trains, this was the one with all the ‘senior citizen’ and ladies in one coach. As I said…luck spit on me.

Beer inspired two of my fellow travellers to make an attempt that hit the Times of India pages. The same beer conspired to get me down the side upper berth 5 times during the night!

Those who travelled on a side upper berth would know. It was nothing short of gymnatics to get up the berth. The well-padded ladders provided to climb up were of no use. Trying to get my foot on the lowest rung would tear the seams of my jeans, thanks to the size of my….

So I had to spread eagle myself in space above the aisle of the coach with one leg on berth 26, another on berth 29, left hand on berth 30 and right on berth 27 and heave myself with utmost accuracy onto berth 32. Had I missed, the 77 year old gentleman sitting on berth 25 would have been paste!

Imagine I had to recollect this sequence as soon as I woke up in the middle of the night. How many of you can recollect the multiplication table of 13 upon waking up from deep sleep? Got it? Now add a threatening bladder to the situation and imagine!

The bladder’s threat was the last thing on my mind as I tried to get down. I was more concerned about the 77 year old man. For some reason, he chose to make my night more challenging. He slept with his head towards the aisle while the rest chose to sleep the other way. My top concern was not to land my foot on the his throat.

When I returned, I had another challenge…I had to get back up there in the darkness. It was better the first time. There was light and the berths were not occupied. Now I had to contend with darkness, pairs of innocent hands and legs and one geriatric neck.

I tried a variation this time and used the ladders on either side to climb up like a monkey. Only I landed the wrong side on my berth. The pillow was under my feet! Now Indian Railways strongly believes that only babies travel by AC. So their pillows are tiny pads of cotton that can comfort only a 6 month old!. I need a good support for my head thanks to my apnea which causes me to snore like a disgruntled boar! I had sacrificed the rug and the two flimsy sheets by folding them up and plcing them under the pillow to increase the height. To add more height, I had piled my towel under the pillow as well. Now I had them under my leg. It took me a great deal more gymnastics (this time as a contortionist) to get the pillow set from my feet to my head.

The second time I rushed to the toilet, I decided to spend the night on the attender’s berth by the doors. Bad luck again. As I flushed and stepped out, I found a man snoring on it. His paunch was better pronounced than mine and his girth propotionately superior. His tight pair of jeans had an anomaly that told me that he had not only beaten me to this berth but was also better prepared. He had left his zipper partly open…probably to save precious moments.

By the time I was through round 5, I had mastered the entire exercise.

I would prefer the side berths of sleeper class any day. At least the windows are open. Imagine the situation in the IIIA Coach when the AC goes off and all the different cuisines in the tummies of the passengers start to pronounce their effect!

The programmed sounds of the wheels on the rails provide the much required rhythm to lull me to sleep and negate any other sound. The silent interiors of a IIIA coach accentuate the snores…multiple rhythms thanks to multiple cases of apnea. If this were not sufficient, one can clearly hear the wind blow, everytime a traveller lets go! In my case it was a concert of all the senior citizen around me. Since I could not avoid it, I joined the orchestra with my own little piece of “light music”.

Now there are reports that the railways is planning to add an extra berth between the side upper and side lower berths in III AC compartments Imagine the situation with 8 extra berths! This is a bid to increase revenue per coach. The railways would make money. The passengers would make war! People like me will die of claustrophobia or asphyxation.  It is time to move to even more constricted spaces…the low cost airlines and their sardine can aircrafts. This one is even more frightening, but at least I would not have to endure it for more than two hours!


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