"Testing .. testing... if you are reading this I've just succeeded in blogging via gprs!"
Well, it wasn't to be. As I hurtled towards New Delhi in the August Kranti express, I tried that little experiment in mobile blogging and failed.
However my co passengers succeeded in putting the very same technology to a completely different and irritating use. Every few minutes a cellphone would go off - each with its own characteristic, cacophonic ringtone - and the following kind of inane conversation would follow:
"Chai naasta ho gaya hai"....
"Abhi abhi Surat cross kiya hai"...
"Tum log kya kar rahe ho? Aaj khaane mein kya banaa hai"?
You wish the railways starts providing a pair of earplugs along with those bedrolls and towels. And thank God that mobile phones have to be switched off on board airplanes!
But well, this is 'progress'. A few years ago there was a satellite phone on board for the use of passengers. Not that anyone used the facility. It cost - if I remember correctly - Rs 180 per minute!
Then came mobiles. And roaming. And now, dirt-cheap roaming.
Out went the satphone. Instead, electrical plug points have been helpfully provided in every compartment. So no, you don't even have to worry about your battery running out right after you've discussed the flavour of ice cream served after dinner...
It's not the technology that's to blame of course, but lack of manners and sensitivity among those that use it!
On a more positive note, I must say that the Indian Railways is once again doing a great job with its 'prima donna' trains.
I used to be a great fan of the Rajdhani/ August Kranti express - in the pre-budget airline era these were the best options available to a middle class Indian. An Indian whose needs and aspirations have changed over the years - a fact that the Rajdhani did notice and act upon.
My first ever trip by Rajdhani was in the a/c chair car. 16 hours on board a train is as long and cramped as a trans-continental flight, but yet a memorable experience. Because in those days it was a great novelty to travel in an a/c train where they served you food and gave you blankets!
Gradually the chaircar was abolished and Rajdhani became an all-sleeper train. A new 3rd a/c class was introduced which was more expensive. But still considered economical for the kind of comfort it provided.
However, for a long time after that, there was no major innovation or improvement. Until now. The new coaches introduced for the Rajdhani/ August Kranti some time ago -which I experienced for the first time - are amazing.
The windows are now huge and clear, the kind you see in Eurail. The old, noisy fans and ancient clunky light switches are gone. And most importantly, the loos are very clean and never run out of water. Thanks to better design as well as maintenance.
The food, as always, is far better than the cardboard served on airlines. My personal favourite is the dahi served in earthern 'kullads'. The taste of which is truly something else.
Even the menu has improved - there is finally an alternative to 'veg cutlet' in breakfast. You can opt for upma - which is made rather well!
All in all - cell phone commentary aside - a pleasant journey.
Now if only they could shave off about 4 hours and make it a 12 hour ride... Hop on at 8 pm and reach Delhi at 8 am. That is the day I'm waiting for!
A day the budget airlines should be dreading!!