Thursday, April 2, 2009

The 296-rupee trip

Now that college is over, people have panned out all over the country to return home, start work or pursue higher studies, which means I now have standing invitations to visit and stay in many different cities. Free food and lodging – what more could a traveller ask for? In the soul-stirring words of Toad of Toad Hall,
Here today - in next week tomorrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped - always somebody else’s horizon!

Or in other words, I am in the GAME baby!

My three day trip to Ranchi cost just Rs. 296. To put that in perspective, this is just less than a lunch buffet at Mainland China, and slightly more than the cab fare from my place to the station. What follows is a breakup of the expenses.

Howrah to Ranchi: INR 200
I bought the ticket at Bolepur station, exactly three hours after I first hit upon the idea of going to Ranchi. For some reason they charged me ten rupees more: the return ticket cost Rs. 190, but maybe that’s because it was bought at the station of departure.

Food and beverages: INR 11
I had all my meals at friends’ places. Said friends had fed their parents (possibly exaggerated) legends about my appetite, but prolonged road travel tends to diminish it somewhat, so I was a shadow of my usual self. Instead of being thankful for small mercies, their parents – being parents – constantly complained that I wasn’t eating anything. The eleven rupees were spent on Pepsi.

Transport in and around Ranchi: INR zero
Three of my friends arranged for vehicles for my three days in Ranchi. I usually prefer to take public transport when travelling because it helps me get a better feel of the place, and more importantly because I can never afford the other kind. But everyone I knew in Ranchi steadfastly insisted that there was no public transport available to the places I wanted to visit. I pleaded with them to arrange for a cycle, but they claimed that wasn’t possible either. This I found decidedly suspicious, since they seemed to have no difficulty arranging for cars at a moment’s notice. It was probably all a ploy to keep me in check.

For some reason, houses in this colour are popular in Ranchi

Entry charges: INR 80
We went to see a few dams and a couple of hilltop temples on the first day. (Irrelevant information: Jawaharlal Nehru once said that dams are the temples of modern India.) Dams and temples obviously have no entry charge. I bought tickets for everyone for the rock garden, paid for myself at the zoo, and some more for paddle boating on the lake inside the zoo. This paddle boating somehow holds an irresistible attraction for me. I’ve paid to ride on paddle boats everywhere from Himalayan lakes to artificial ponds; all paddle boats without exception leak slightly and the rudder turns only one way, but I can’t seem to get enough of them.

A spot-billed pelican at Ormanjhi Zoo

Miscellaneous: INR 5
We went to a crocodile farm the day after Sarhul. Some tribals who were beating drums and dancing in the forest stopped our car to tuck a sprig of holy leaves into our windshield wiper, and I gave them five rupees in exchange.

Ranchi to Howrah: INR zero
Aastha’s dad insisted on buying my return ticket. I had an upper berth, which is pretty good, but as the train was leaving Ranchi, I noticed that the corresponding side lower berth was empty. I parked myself on it and prepared to defend it against all comers. In my experience, of all the ways to travel, there is nothing on earth to touch the side lower berth of the sleeper compartment of an Indian train. I was up all night looking out of the window. The wind kept blowing my hair into my eyes. Outside, the night sky was studded with hundreds of stars.


Tommy said...

I love trains.

Does the lower berth have a better window than the upper?

Tewary (realised.. Vivek may confuse you) said...

Hey..good you in the GAME. I also recently did a trip to Mt. Kalsubai..highest point in Maharashtra...I agree with you on public transport..nothing like that...travelling in the back seat of a jeep (cramped with people who look at you with amazement) with half your body hanging out, after a five hour exhausting difficult to express in blogs..but you do a good job!

Priyanka said...

apart from the fact that
a) you have generous friends, and

b) you're a lucky vegetable to be at the receiving end of their generosity, and

c) the picture of the pelican with that grey frame behind it made me think it was some kind of gallery exhibit, or a statue at a museum,

i rather like the pista-green house. looks like something out of durrell without the mandatory insects and tropical creepers.

Shrabasti Banerjee said...

side lower berths are the best. i've never till date been granted the privilege of having one, though :-(. but when travelling in a/c, i prefer upper berths. no interference :-D. the pelican's lovely.

Rahul Saha said...

Side lower berths are good but (I know Iv'e mentioned this before) I once had to share one all the way to bombay from cal with Aneek Bangabash and his fat ass took up all the space. Seems like a good cheap trip. Looking forward to more stories.

Anonymous said...

I agree about the side lower berths. Didn't you hate the new three tier side berth system?

new age scheherazade said...

About the best way to travel; you are completely, immutably, undeniably right.
This is a beautiful, beautiful post.

Anindita said...

notice notice i'm leaving a comment after all...
the more i read your blog and the more i talk to you, i get reminded of bill bryson.
i agree with you about the side lower births. best way to observe people in trains. only drawback is that they don't have plug points.

Monorina said...

Side lower berths are small. And fun! Or,they were. Now they have three berths in the side and that really cramps things.

There may be a lot of people from Ranchi in my part of the world, for I often see such coloured houses here.

Pratiti said...

WV: Gaman, which is close to meaning travelling, isn't it?
Nice to read your blog after Very Long Time. Meaningless capitalization is my new obsession.

Sroyon said...

@Tommy: I've now added a diagram for people who are not familiar with Indian trains. As you see, the side lower has two windows, while the side upper has none at all.

@Tewary: Hey, great to hear that law firm work still leaves you with enough time to go climbing!

@Priyanka: I'm lucky? It's their privilege that they get to put me up.

@Shrabasti: No interference, but no windows either! Besides, I like the interference.

@Saha: Yeah you did mention it before. Side lower berths with RAC are a different story altogether.

@Anonymous & Monorina: Yeah, in fact I blogged about it here . But it seems they are phasing it out now.

@scheherazade: You liked the post? On reflection I thought it was terribly self-indulgent.

@Anindita: But as far as I know, no berths in sleeper class have plug points.

@Pratiti: Funny coincidence!

RC said...

I want to do this mindless travelling also!! ('mindless' in this context, is a VERY good thing!!) ;)