As part of my creative writing course with Udemy, one of the writing prompt made me write about Deccan Queen.
Deccan Queen is an emotion for people travelling between Mumbai and Pune.The train recently was in news for celebrating its 90th birthday. There were many articles printed in newspaper. It is only when I was doing this writing prompt, I got nostalgic about all the journeys that I took with Deccan Queen. Most of us have memories travelling in this train, hence I decided to share this write up with you all.
The train is famous for many firsts, being a fast train with few stops and being always punctual. Named after Maharastra’s famous plateaus this train definitely enjoys a queen’s status in Maharashtra. Passengers still take pride in travelling by Deccan queen. But the words that came to my mind with Deccan Queen were Pune, grandparents, cousins, summer vacations, mangoes and of course the journey itself which was full of must dos while travelling on this train.
I haven’t travelled by train from Mumbai to Pune in ages and my memories date back almost 35 years.As a kid, most of my summer holidays were spent in Pune, as my Aaji stayed there. It was an annual ritual of spending the month with her and travel to Pune by Deccan Queen. The excitement would start from the moment we came to know we got reservation in Deccan Queen.
Travelling by Deccan queen meant our journey would start two and half hour early, as we lived in Jogeshwari and it was quite a drive. However, catching the train from VT station, now CST, had its own glamour. All inter city and state trains departed from there. Watching those trains at the backdrop of magnificent architecture of VT station was a major attraction.
Passengers managing their luggage, families, kids was fun to watch. It wasn’t the era of bottled water, so almost every family travelling would have those big flasks, invariably a Milton. If people were travelling overnight, they would carry those bulky hold-alls too.There were “coolies” in their red uniform and badges carrying luggage were everywhere. Then there would be an announcement about train arrival, the announcer would request the passengers to maintain a safe distance while Queen was arriving at the platform.
Once the Queen was at the platform, flurry of activities would take place. People with reservation and a lot of luggage just ran towards their seat, not to sit but to get more space to for their luggage and that too right under their seat. Those who couldn’t do the running around hired a coolie to do the job and there was no beating them in that department. The last ones to enter were the frequent travellers, who would do daily “up-down” as its called.
The real fun started when the train left from the station. In 20 minutes or so, the man from pantry would come and took orders for the snack. Deccan Queen was famous for its tasty snacks! All they offered was omelette bread and veg cutlets and tea/coffee. They were legendary though . It was mandatory to order these snacks for us – omelette for us and veg cutlets for my mom. Most of the passengers placed order and I remember if any passenger needed to use restroom before the pantry guy came, they would request their co-passenger to place an order for them. Everyone cooperates as you just cant miss the snacks in Deccan queen.
After 30 minutes of so, the smell of the snacks would waffle through the train and everyone is praying for the pantry guy to come and he makes an appearance! He carried a big tray with the snacks neatly packed , with list of orders and distributed them. Omelette or cutlet with bread and butter, chips and reddest of red tomato sauce. I don’t know what they serve in the train anymore, but frankly those chips wouldn’t stand a chance with todays Mc-generation but we loved them. It was a novelty at that time. I still have the taste of those omelettes and cutlets with that sweet sauce and oily chips.
If you were lucky you got snacks served in half an hour, which gave opportunity to eat the famous vada Pav at Karjat, the first stop for the Queen. Buy chikki at Lonavala. Aah! The joys of being a kid and eat guilt free!
If you think , all we did was munch all the way to Pune then No! We managed to play some antakshari or read a book or sleep. Appreciate the city of lights, Khopoli. It was a site to watch the lights in the night. My favourite passtime , however, was definitely observing other passengers. How they dress, how they talk, their body language, how they carry themselves. There was always someone you would notice for their typical demeanour. There was always someone irritating.
Most of the time we travelled second class and the journey would get cooler from Lonavala. Being a Mumbaikar even a difference of three degrees made us shiver as the climate was definitely cooler that time.
After Lonavala, almost everyone waited for the journey to end. Thankfully, it was just an hour more. Before Pune station, the train stopped at Shivaji Nagar, where most of the passengers would get down and train got emptier and then our final destination Pune! Start of our summer holidays!
It was just a three hour journey but I have taken many trips and each trip has been enjoyable and memorable.