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Special: Duronto ki Sawari

Last updated on: October 10, 2012 13:52 IST

Special: Duronto ki Sawari

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Archana Masih

No journey can give you a taste of the Indian landscape like train travel.

Rajesh Karkera and Archana Masih capture vignettes on one such long journey through Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

The Mumbai-Allahabad Duronto Express is a cheerful looking train. Not only does it cut an otherwise 24-hour journey to 17, its bright, happy colours of green, red and yellow bode quite a good start to a long journey through Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Since the train only has about four technical halts where no passengers get in or off the train, the only indicator that you have crossed state boundaries is the SMS informing you that you are on roaming tariff rates.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

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'If only they had not taken old compartments and spruced them from the outside'

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Archana Masih

"Most of the journey is spent sleeping," says a passenger, "Unlike the Calcutta Mail where you spent one full night and one whole day in the train!'

Started six months ago on this particular route, the train runs twice a week. Regular passengers say what they like best are its timings. Board the train at 5.30 pm and arrive at noon the next day.

"If only they had not taken old compartments and spruced them from the outside," says one staffer. "See how it looks from inside -- a shoddy, patch-up job. They should have brought in new compartments too."

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

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The food is cold, but the service is good

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Archana Masih

Young catering staff ferry food from a pantry six compartments away where a team of cooks and assistants work behind a counter with modern exhaust systems and a clean work space.

By the time the food makes its journey across six bogies, served in proper glass plates and cutlery, the food is rather cold and the ice cream has turned to milkshake.

But that does not take away anything from the good service these light-footed, smiling youngsters provide -- the fact that the pantry car is placed so far away is not their fault after all.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera
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The food flies thick and fast, much like the Doronto

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Archana Masih

The only mistake we make is to carry a bagful of food for the journey because food flies thick and fast -- much like the Duronto, which by the way, reaches Allahabad before time.

Barely have you sat down, the servings begin -- water, juice, a plateful of snacks and savouries, including salted pistachios and sandwiches. And Double Diamond tea that tastes much better than what comes off any airline trolley!

Then there is tomato soup before dinner and a bowl of cornflakes and milk before a breakfast of eggs, toast and fruit.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

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Haji Abdul Rashid's stall and its tasty sandwiches

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Archana Masih

Bhusaval Junction. 11:30 pm.

Smiling Haji Abdul Rashid's stall has inviting egg sandwiches -- where strangely the eggs sandwich the bread. This speciality is a roaring hit at Mr Rashid's stall, at the station which is a huge rail hub in itself.

Mr Rashid insists on giving us a free cup of tea.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

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The railway station is often a home to many

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Archana Masih

Morning life is in full swing at Satna junction in Madhya Pradesh.

The pantry staff hand a few slices of bread to an old lady begging on the platform. Sadly, there are many frail, old women begging for food and money at the station. The railway station is often a home to many.

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Image: A couple wait anxiously for their train at the station
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

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Bound for the City of Dreams?

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Archana Masih

"Sahib, sahib, take my photo..." the young lad poses for the camera just as the Duronto picks up speed and exits Satna station.

For a long time, the Satna Lok Sabha seat was represented by Congress leader Arjun Singh, whose grandson Arunodaya, a Bollywood actor, was last seen opposite Sunny Leone in Jism 2.

Noting this boy's debonair stance, who knows if he is waiting for a train to the city of dreams.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

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Ah! The lush Indo-Gangetic plains

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Archana Masih

The lush Indo-Gangetic plains greets us as the Duronto moves into Uttar Pradesh, where station boards bear names in three languages -- Hindi, English and Urdu.

Inside the train, the attendants start wrapping up the linen and the towels, which are handed to passengers in a brown paper bag at the start of the journey.

The pantry staff arrive with their farewell offering: Some sauf on a plate, the classic Indian mouth freshner.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

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Blowing in the wind...

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Archana Masih

The landscape is dotted with small villages, fields and people setting out for work.

Thirty odd kilometres ahead lie the Ganga and Yamuna, that make Allahabad one of India's holiest cities, which will celebrate the Maha Kumbh Mela in three months' time.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

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At journey's end

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Archana Masih

The journey comes to an end on platform 7 at Allahabad junction.

In the few hours before it makes the return journey to Mumbai in the evening, the train will be cleaned, the food replenished, the catering staff will get some rest before beginning work again.

As we leave the platform for reportage assignments in the city, we see passengers still alighting the Duronto where in a few hours a new set of passengers will climb onto the brightly painted train as it begins another journey across India.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera
Tags: , Allahabad , India , Duronto

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