11 Feb 2013

Lokmanya Tilak Terminus




East Coast Matsyagandha.

An E Co railway rake* from Bhubaneshwar was catching its breath after a long run from the other end of the Deccan. It smelled like the southern end of Mumbai locals in the mornings but yet not quite like it. It was less salty than our sweet smell of the Arabian sea fish and it was sprinkled with the smell of a soil of some far off land. The train was carrying fish from the eastern parts for Mumbaikars with the nose for authentic taste of the east.

* East Coastal Railway. HQ: Bhubaneshwar and covers parts of coastal Orissa and North Coastal AP 

East coast landscape between Bhubaneshwar and Puri.
  The Mahanadi at Cuttack

Packed in thermocol boxes with ice, they travelled overland through one of the most fascinating landscapes one can imagine. Starting from the Mahanadi Valley, through the hills of the interiors of Orissa. It's all electric throughout from coast to coast. Through the Russian factories of Bhilai that look straight out of the cold war days and the green garden of eden of Chattisgarh which reminded me of South Interior Karnataka in winter.

Even thought it's electric, the smell of this railway live is coal. All along the routes, you pass kilometer long coal trains every few minutes until you reach Nagpur. After Nagpur, the coal train frequency reduces a bit but the landscape takes of the sad, dry,  everybody (especially Ajit Pawar & Co.) loves a good drought landscape with sick and wanting to look fluffy cotton hanging from frail branches. There's Wardha which was holy for Gandhians and will always remain a pilgrimage spot for for the rail fans of India.

This is a route for railfans, because then comes Bhusaval and that beautiful loco shed at Igatpuri where AC meets DC or some such electrical problem for which trains had to be decouples and coupled to continue a journey. Pure railfan porn.

I think it was in an old Rudyard Kipling story that I read a child that I first read about this place. The ghat section did not exist then and there was a description of the trek up hill through the Kasara/Thal Ghat. It passes in a few minutes now but it's good enough to take your breath away, especially during the monsoons.

From Kasara downwards it's our Matsyagandha territory. That's my favourite kind of matsyagandha, the Arabian Sea ones.

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