Western Zone of the Indian Railways


I heard there’s a train strike in Paris. The passengers know, and I regret this with a smile, some minor inconveniences. So I can’t resist the pleasure of telling you about the indian trains where, to use the formula of the quidam who wrote a special theory of relativity, “everything is relative”…

A few days late… trains.

The train leaves a few times a day late. It’s not because of the strike, no, it’s a delay problem. Western Indian Railways has indeed a complex network across the country. The slightest incident, even minor, has a domino effect of gigantic proportions in each state. For example, the Mumbai train may be delayed by the monsoon flood, the Delhi train may be held up at the station by a member of Parliament who is dragging his feet and taking advantage of Western Indian Railways. There are also mechanical problems, electrical problems, station loading problems, railway track problems, vandalism, theft on trains or accidents. Taking the train in India is an adventure. 
In France, the distances covered are limited to a few hours. In India, trips last more than one day, often two to four days. India’s rail network has a total length of 115,000 km. It is estimated that over 30% of India’s railways are overcrowded with trains. And to make it worse, most of India still has single-line connectivity. This creates problems at crossings. Trains have to make unexpected stops at many locations, again resulting in delays.   

To endure these incredible delays, the best thing to do it is to take the time to get the best of them… - What else could you do? 

If you are rich or if your name is James Bond (or Hercule Poirot), you can take the “Palace on Wheels”, the “Maharaja’s Express” or the “Rajasthan on Wheels”, with amazing interiors, sumptuous lights and remarkable cutlery. But if you like meeting India, the real one, take the 3rd class of Western Indian Railways. When the train starts, it moves so slowly that you can catch it running. If you have a quick trip planned, you may be a little disappointed. 

To better appreciate the Indian train, forget that you’re in a hurry. At this level, time no longer matters. You will have time to read a book by Amartya Sen or Suketu Mehta, time to share tea, time to take pictures, time to get off the train to buy doughnuts, time to sleep, time to look at the landscape, time to lose all notions of time, time to see India and time to finally meet again.   

The delay of the French trains is nothing compared to the Indian one. 

I took the train from Paris this morning, it was 40 minutes late because of the strike… I can’t believe how patient the Indian trains have made me. But with this winter cold, here in Paris, I must admit that the time seems longer on the train platform. “That’s relativity!” would have declared the father of the general relativity theory.

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