TECH TALK: A Train Journey: Delhi Station

Back to India and my journey. It wasnt the length as much as the fact that I was traveling on a route that I hadnt been on before. Most of my train travel have been between Mumbai and Pune. Even after the expressway, I still prefer the train. So, I was looking forward to this Delhi-Dehradun train journey. I was on my way to give a talk in Mussoorie. But there was a hurdle to be overcome: I was on the waiting list.

For a month, the waiting list number had barely moved stuck in the teens. I would check every few days on the Indian Railways website. Here is a wonderful example of how technology can make a difference. All it took was a couple of clicks to find out the real-time status given the PNR (Passenger Name Record). And yet, access to a technology that could remove pain points for millions is not accessible to the masses. (I will come back to this later.)

So, with the train departure at 3:30 pm, I wasnt sure till about 2 pm that I was going to be on the train or not. Luckily, one last check and lo and behold! I was confirmed in part, thankful, as I later found out, to a party of twenty-five en route to Haridwar which had cancelled five tickets. So, I rushed to the New Delhi Railway station. And then I started realisng why train travel is not fun.

I could not find a board linking trains and platform numbers. I asked at an information counter only to be sent to the wrong platform. So, I did what everyone else does in India ask the people nearby (in this case, the porters). And thus, I came to be in a mass of humanity on platform no. 9. The next task was to figure out where my compartment would be coming since the train wasnt yet there on the platform. This time, the answers werent that helpful. The train finally arrived from the yard a mere fifteen minutes before its scheduled departure. I was obviously standing in the wrong place. My compartment was elsewhere. This was also true for the other hundreds of passengers. So, it was a massive, rapid cross-migration. I wished I was boarding a flight.

A few minutes later which seemed like forever on a hot Delhi June afternoon, I found myself in my seat in the train. It was the middle one in a line of three. Luckily, someone wanted an exchange, and so I got a window. That more than made up for the experiences of the past few minutes. As I settled down and watched people do the same, I started to relax. I was on the train, ready to leave Delhi for the 5 hour 45 minute journey to Dehradun by the Jan Shatabdi.

Tomorrow: The Window

TECH TALK A Train Journey+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.