Today, Google marked the 160th anniversary of the first passenger train journey in India with a doodle on its homepage. Indian railways holds the repute of being the largest rail network in Asia and the world’s second largest under one management. Indian railway connects the length and breadth of this massive country by operating many short and long distance trains in addition to many luxury trains like palace on wheels. A train journey in India is not just mayhem and frenzy but also a delightful opportunity to discover the charm of the rustic life and people upclose, to make new friends and to experience the diverse culture, cuisines and life styles of the country. As the search engine giant takes its visitors on a short journey into the history of Indian Railways, in this image of a steam engine train chugging along a palm-lined railway track in the backdrop of ancient palaces and buildings, we Indians can take pride in the tremendous achievements, Indian Railways has made in the last many years.
India’s first passenger train from Bombay to Thane had chugged out of Bori Bunder, in Bombay on April 16, 1853, exactly 160 years ago. This maiden railway passenger journey in India which involved three steam locomotives, Sultan, Sindh and Sahib, took 400 invited passengers in 14 carriages on a 57 minute journey that had one halt. As Google commemorates this milestone with a celebratory doodle on its India home page, which features a steam engine pulling a passenger train, let us strive to make Indian Railways the best ever by keeping it clean, prompt and safe.
An Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) survey has revealed that almost 35 per cent of domestic travellers preferred coastal destinations like Goa, Puducherry,Kerala and Rameshwaram for their holidays. Hotels in Kerala has been recording a massive business during Christmas and New Year with many hotels fully booked months before. The harsh winter in Europe has also proved beneficial for Kerala as many foreigners have decided to spend their holidays in the warm and sunny state of Kerala instead of remaining cooped up in their homes due to the prevailing snow and frost conditions there .
Leh and Kerala have become the best performers in the domestic travel market, replacing the traditional tourist destinations of Goa and Rajasthan. With the Taj property in Bekal finally taking off, Kerala is all set to make it big in the ensuing tourist season. From monsoon tourism to adventure sporting options like white water rafting and hot air ballooning, Kerala is expanding its vistas in tourism and has positioned itself on a strong turf. Going by the trends, 2011 will be a highly successful year for Kerala, fondly called as the land of the Gods, spices and backwaters!
Christmas or the mass of Christ that signifies the birth of baby Jesus Christ in Bethlehem is undeniably one of the most popular winter celebrations in the world. The first visible clues of the impending celebration of Christmas start dropping in by October when frenzied shopping and decorations highlight the festive mood in the air.
Kerala too is getting ready to celebrate Christmas with gaiety and religious fervour. However in the onslaught of modernity, the celebrations of Keralites too have undergone a sea change, which has robbed off the warmth of yesteryears. As ready made Christmas gifts, sumptuous dinner coupons and exciting travel deals took over the Christmas market, the flavour of the home made recipes that were so special to Kerala including appam and stew to the simplicity of the hand made greeting cards and stars, has been pushed into oblivion.
This year, the markets are flooded with imported lights and decorative pieces from China that flaunts a low sticker price to lure the avid shoppers. These Chinese lights are available in a bevy of designs and patterns including floral patterns, star lights and many more. This year, the low-cost cane cribs that came all the way from North India has also created a lot of interest among the Christmas shoppers.
With the nuclear family concept taking strong roots in our society, most Malayalees prefer to celebrate their festivals in their reclusive comfort zone far away from their relatives and extended families unlike in the past. But don’t you think that the traditional Christmas with all the merriment and grandeur of the old days was the perfect time to slow things down and to do something noteworthy for mankind. In the break neck speed of today’s high technology world, did our festivals became nothing but excuses to plunge into the party mood, eat, shop and splurge?
Travelling in Cochin city buses have always been a challenging task, and I was the victim last evening, when I had to reach Tripunithura ( a market town in Cochin). The distance from my work place to the destination (Tripunithura) is only 6km and a bus fare of mere 5 rupees, but, thanks to the heavy traffic congestion and unexpected showers your short journey gets stretched. The 5 rupees then gives you the pleasure of a jam-packed bus trip that runs into hours – a full Cochin sightseeing tour.
Well last day it was my chance to experience this bitter reality of the city transport service, while our bus driver was somehow making way amidst the traffic block, daily travelers were keeping themselves busy by chit-chats and other talks. The topic of discussion was the sensational tamil flick Enthiran (Robot), few college-goers were discussing how stars in the movie did justice to their roles and what the movie lacked. After few minutes I realised the bus again started moving, I was relieved and checked the wrist watch which was ticking past 6:20, which meant in the past 20 mins our bus moved only 2kms!!!
Even though our politicians may call our city great names at the end of the day things remain the same and local people have to bear the brunt of the administrative apathy.
Meanwhile, the chat regarding the movie continued and was getting more expressive with those college students enacting few stunts and facial expressions of the movie. Though I haven’t watched this much-awaited flick of Rajinikanth, ‘Enthiran’ in the past 10mins I was lucky enough to get a good visualized review of the movie. Watch was ticking past 6:30 and now another 3km was left to finally reach my destination.
The bus stopped in between at different bus stops with many passengers getting down and more getting in. Amidst all this chaos, the person who remained ‘as cool as cucumber’ was the conductor who was not even managing the crowd inside the bus, but was also making sure he was giving tickets to all passengers. Kudos to him to collect the money from everyone even when there was hardly any space to move freely.
After all the hardships I made it to Tripunithura and finally was out in the fresh air and took a deep breath and saluted those thousands of daily commuters who face this hardship daily after their daily grind.
Travelling in some of Kochi‘s private buses is a daunting experience for me and for other commuters who are concerned about time. In the morning, reaching office on time is a concern for all those who work in a well administered office. In the evening, most people hurry back home, especially women, before it gets dark. If you are staying in a hostel, you’ll have to meet the deadline of time before the gate closes. And even private buses in Cochin are also concerned about punching in time at the punching stations.
But it happens mostly in the evening when you want to hurry back home. If you have got into a bus which moves like it is taking you for a sightseeing in the city. Here you end up getting mad. Some buses move at such a snail’s pace, that we can even take a nap. I have counted seconds and minutes from the time I got in to reach my stop. The time I took to reach from Janatha(Vyttila) via south to Kacheripady was an hour!! And this happened despite the traffic blocks at Panampilly Nagar and South over bridge. I wanted to ask the driver if he was learning the driving or taking us for a sightseeing and then I curse myself for getting into this bus.
Some buses go slow until they reach the punching station at Menaka, but once they punched out they rush for life. Most people, who like me feel that time is very valuable, are happy to travel in fast riding private buses. If once I got stuck in such bus, I’ll be careful not to step into that bus again.
Although, the traffic rules says “Speed Thrills but Kills”, these snail-buses are sometimes beyond tolerance.
It seems that the editorial team at karma Kerala has got bitten by the travel bug:). Soon on the trails of the travel blogs by my colleagues, Unni, Jisha and Tessa, the wanderlust within me is urging me to write about the train trip I had to Tamilnadu last week.
It was a long due family holiday trip for us. The destination was a popular hill station in Tamilnadu, which was about 7 hours by train from Cochin. The journey was enjoyable and the compartments not crowded, which looked quite unlikely in the holiday season. A young mother with her two small kids was travelling with us and she was finding it really hard to manage the restless and noisy kids. She was trying out all the tricks she could think of in getting them seated. The youngest was only about 2 years of age and was the naughtiest of the two. The mother moved to the window seat with the kid in her lap and was trying to deviate his attention by showing the sights outside. She pointed towards a herd of cows grazing in a patch of green and the boy gave her a blank stare and next we came across a flock of sheep nibbling at the leaves of the thorny shrubs around a village temple and the result was again a blank stare. The mother was showing him paddy and corn fields and banana plantations, which were also met with same uninterested stare from the boy.
As the train chugged along to the nearest town, the spectacles changed drastically and the boy seemed to be interested in the change of pace, much to the relief of his mom and the fellow passengers as well! Now the mother pointed at the speeding cars and vehicles that were only an arm’s length from our window seats. I was astonished to see that the kid was able to identify almost all brands of the cars that its mother pointed to him including the latest brands like Santro, Swift and more!
Strange indeed are the changing times. The new generation kids which live in gated communities away from nature seem to know nothing other than vehicles and the hustle and bustle of the city life. For them cows and sheep no longer exist in their lives and in all probability they might have seen these animals, only in the colorful pages of their text books. I think we should have an interactive education scheme where the kids learn things by actually seeing and feeling them. It is high time that we go back to our roots to make sure that the new generation grows up as they should be or the benefit of the society and for themselves!
- You begin parking your bike at the two-wheelers parking slot in the railway station compound. The guys there (two North Indian young guys) come to you, helping you find some space amongst the parked vehicles. Then, they ask when you are taking it back. When it’s said, “Monday morning”, they give you the tickets, saying “Thirty rupees”. That’s a shock. Just a week back it was Twenty Rupees for two days. The guys explain that the Railways has increased the parking fee from Five Rupees for 6 hours to Ten Rupees for the same period of time. You start grumbling and they settle in for Twenty-Five rupees. Magnanimity indeed!!
- Inside the Railway Station, in front of the ticket counter, you come across two or three women engaged in cleaning the floor. They pour water all over and then mop it up, after asking you to move over. But they do it before you get the time to move over and a small wavelet comes and strikes your feet. You once again grumble, but it’s their world after all.
- Now comes the turn to make inquiries about the train. You approach the counter, start making inquiries, the guy at the counter tries to answer, but the people who come for ticket keep him engaged. It’s then that you notice that it’s stated there, in bold letters ‘NO INQUIRIES HERE’. It’s also added that inquiries are to be made at Platform No.1. To go over to Platform No 1, you got to cross four or five platforms by a foot-over bridge. For that, as per railway rules, you need to have a ticket, at least a platform ticket. That would take time as Ernakulam South is still to get a platform ticket vending machine, which is there in some smaller stations.
- You dial 139 from your phone to get the train details. After about 5 minutes and too many entries, you come to know that it could be a two-hour wait and hence you decide to go by bus.
- Stepping out of the railway station, you find autorickshaws queued up there. Since you feel that these guys could fleece you, you prefer to walk some distance and take another autorickshaw.
- It’s a Thiruvananthapuram-bound Fast Passenger that you find, ready for departure. Seeing lots of empty seats, you are attracted to it. But just as it gets ready to depart, people just pop up from here and there and it’s full in a minute.
- The person sitting next to you, a Tamilian, hums songs, chews pan masala and spits out, through your window at stops.
- At Harippad, some families get in, look here and there for seats and decide to stand all the way to Kollam, as it’s the only solution. Your neighbour, the Tamilian, gets ready to let a child sit on his lap while you prefer to be insensitive and indifferent.
- The Tamilian guy has no scruples throwing the plastic carry bag, containing the remains of the grapes that he had been eating, inside the Kollam Bus Station, as the bus starts moving away.
- You get down, get ready to catch a private bus that would take you to Varkala. The bus arrives and eager to get a convenient seat, you go and stand near the bus, waiting for people to get down. There is a puddle of muddy water and you hope nobody steps on it. People are watchful and don’t step on it. You are happy; but the happiness is short-lived. A middle-aged guy steps right into the puddle, splashes it on your jeans, which is thus rendered specked and dotted and moves away, not at all aware of the mischief he had done.
- The moment the bus moves on, a song starts playing, a nice, melodious song from a 1980′s movie, one that you love hearing again and again.Ah, it’s going to be a pleasant journey.
- The conductor comes, gives you a ticket of Seven Rupees, tells you that he’d give you the balance three rupees later. You tell yourself, “He’ll deliberately forget it. Better keep that in mind”. In about five minutes the conductor, a young chap, comes and hands you the balance amount. You realise, with dismay that it’s easy being a cynic, but being good is not-that-easy.
- Your neighbour, a bit inebriated, starts grumbling, spitting out of the bus at times, but you can’t help it. You look towards the sky, wondering when the gathering clouds would burst out into rain.
- A group gets in from a bus-stop. They are workers from some construction site and the group consists of men and women, young and old. A young guy in the group has a lighted cigarette in his hands. Since his mates ask him to avoid smoking inside the bus, he prefers to stand on the footboard. The whirls of smoke sent up by the guy, and his friend, who too joins him and partakes of the cigarette, leaves you grumbling. But you prefer to say nothing for the simple reason that you’d be left all alone and if you make it a big issue, they could even go violent. The conductor prefers to let it go unnoticed, because that’s for him the best thing to do.
- Finally, when the bus waits at a railway gate for a train to pass by, you spend time counting the passing minutes; and as the train passes by, you realize that it’s the very same train which you could have caught at Kochi. Anyway, in another fifteen minutes you arrive at your destination. Home sweet home!
Going by the turn of events, it seems that the hapless public in Kerala has been forced to put up with frequent bus strikes, which throw the normal life out of gear. This is the second bus strike in a matter of a few weeks and with the Sabarimala season and the holidays on, these bus strikes have made the life of common man really miserable.
In Kerala, majority of the general public depends on the private and KSRTC buses to commute to and fro their work places. The latest bus strike in the series is likely to leave a double blow to the commuters as a section of the KSRTC bus employees are also striking work this time to press their various demands including the release of their DA arrears. The meeting with the Transport Minster failed to reach a consensus on the various issues raised by the private bus operators including scrapping of students concessions and hiking the ticket fares among other demands.
Today, Kerala has the highest ticket fares in South India. States like Tamil Nadu still has the minimum fare of 2 rupees while in Kerala it was revised to Rupees 3 .50 almost an year ago. An imminent price hike on the cards would make it overly costly and will not serve the public. With the prices of the daily commodities spiralling out of control, life for common man is already a night mare. Being burdened with a fare hike at this stage would only add up to the miseries of the public. Anyone in the upper echelons of the power corridor listening?
For many Kochiites, it was rather a thrilling experience to have travelled in the AC Volvo bus run by KSRTC‘s city service. On Wednesday (30.12.2009) Morning at 7 ‘O’ clock Kochi‘s KSRTC Volvo buses started off their maiden trip and ended at 10 pm. Many awaited eagerly and patiently to have a Volvo experience to reach their offices or houses. On the first day trip, the buses were delayed on consecutive trips due to traffic blocks. Of the seven Volvo buses, three plied between Fort Kochi and Nedumbassery, while four buses conducted service in the Aroor-Angamaly route.
Travelling in the Volvo is indeed a luxury. Most buses plying on this route were filled to capacity. But the only problem is that you will have to sacrifice a lot of time to enjoy this luxury. From Aroor to Ankamali you will be charged Rs. 68 and from Fort Kochi to Nedumbasseri Rs. 70. Eventhough, the bus fares are something that won’t fit to the daily expenses of an ordinary man, the greater facility is that, you can travel daily in a luxury bus without facing any hassles unlike other private buses operating in the city. The gutters and the zig-zags of the Kochi roads will not affect the smooth and happy journey of travellers in these orange coloured Volvo buses.
The bus employees dressed in variations of blue colour shirts and trousers, are specially trained to make you feel more comfortable inside. The place names appear on the board in English and Malayalam. Songs are played all the while you travel, so that you don’t have to feel bored. A fully automatic controlling system enables you to get inside and outside the bus easily. The door is controlled by the driver with a press button.
Union Minister of State for Agriculture K V Thomas on Monday inaugurated the much-awaited Volvo low-floor bus service in the city. Seven of the 50 low-floor automatic Volvo buses earmarked for Kochi under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme were flagged off at Vytilla Junction. The minister hopes that these hi-tech buses would attract more people towards the public transport system, thereby easing the traffic congestion on the city roads. In Thiruvananthapuram, the Volvo buses are not very successful. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation(KSRTC) will have to bear the additional liability if the bus service does not reach upto the break-even level, The minister noted.
Anyway let’s hope that these Volvo buses would meet the demands of all those who love a luxury travel.
This picture of the little dog wearing a helmet sitting behind the man on a bike, was an e-mail forward by one of my friends this morning. It may seem amusing to you and so it was for me. But, I was suddenly struck with an idea of writing something about our Kerala road accidents and death caused by not wearing helmets.
Here in this photograph the man has taken special care to protect his dog, from an accident that can happen at any moment. May be, he must have done it for some fun. But what it points out really is about obeying the traffic rules or laws. Now, we need to check- how many people in Kerala still make sure that they wear helmets before they set out on a ride? The increasing number of road accidents in Kerala, shows nothing else but the negligence from the part of people and irresponsibility on the part of authorities in making sure that all two-wheeler travellers wear helmets.
An earlier report in 2009 shows that 16,612 two-wheelers were involved in accidents, in which Ernakulam topped on the list with the highest number 4,101 among towns. So, what do all these reports shows? It is nothing else but, in spite of all the awarenesses, laws and regulations, Kerala still face a sharp increase in the number of road accidents daily.
Although a Full Bench verdict came up in 2003, directing the government and the police to strictly enforce Section 129 of the Motor Vehicle Act (which makes it mandatory for two-wheeler riders and pillion riders to wear helmets), some still don’t follow these rules. According to the police reports, most of the accidents were owing to speeding and reckless driving. Most of the injured riders did not wear helmets.
The youngsters particularly those have recently got their licenses often tend to break road rules just for the thrill. Many find it thrilling to overtake dangerously at high speeds. Poor road conditions, bad driving habits, lack of awareness of road discipline and drunken driving have also contributed to the high number of accidents involving two-wheelers in the city. According to the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC), two-wheeler riders are among the most vulnerable section of road users. A traffic study by NATPAC pointed out that lack of protective head gear was one of the main reasons for the large number of fatalities in road accidents involving two-wheelers in the State.
Are you wearing your helmet today and is your pillion rider wearing one?