Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Destination-Shillong


                                            
           The Destination-Shillong!!!
                                      By Deepesh Soni.
                                                                      
                                                                        Prelude
          This trip hitherto remains my longest train journey, albeit I was not able to complete my trip due to a minacious circumstance. My plan to travel to Shillong was set up very well in advance and Shillong holds a special place in my heart And being a railway enthusiast, undoubtedly, I excogitated to reach Shillong by taking longest train route possible, eventually coming up with a plan to, first, travel to Bangalore from Mumbai, then take a train to Guwahati, and then a bus/cab ride to Shillong city, a total distance of ~4500KM and travel time of ~80 hours.
         The return journey, however, was not gratifying at all and I was in hurry to reach home, missed my evening flight to Mumbai but did manage to board the next day morning flight from Kolkata (Calcutta).

          Mumbai to Shillong via Bangalore….!!
   
 I was very happy that I finally managed to schedule a trip to Shillong but being a railfan, I have always preferred to take longer route and this trip was no different!! After contemplating different routes to reach Shillong including taking a train ride via New Delhi, I opted to travel, first, to Bangalore by 11013DN Mumbai-Coimbatore express which is evidently quicker than its counterpart the 16529DN Udyan express and would be perfect for me as I wouldn't have to spend more time in Bangalore city before I board 12509DN Bangalore-Guwahati express. I was getting very excited as the day of travel (December 6th, 2011) was closing in and just a couple of days ahead of my trip, I was all set up with my backpack but what really surprised me was that even my mom helped me pack my bag which she never did before!!!!  
     The schedule departure of my train (Mumbai-Coimbatore express) from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT, Mumbai) was 10:35PM and this terminus very close to my house, I was no hurry. I left my house after 9:30PM and I was sure I'll get a cab rather easily but I gotten blown out of water when nobody agreed to ferry me..wow!!! How am going to reach?? I thought!!! It was already 10PM. The other option was to board suburban train but this wasn't too easy as I'd have to change the train twice, besides not to mention the rush hour crowd in Mumbai suburban trains, but I finally did opt to board suburban (local) train and fortunately it wasn't too crowded. I reached LTT mere 20 minutes before the departure of my train. The Mumbai-Coimbatore express was already berthed on platform#2 and while entering the platform, I was about to get frisked by the security but they allow me to go without frisking maybe because I spoke with them in English and they kind of find it weird. Well...this is not unusual with me!!! This train being a 22-coach train and my coach being 5th from the engine (loco), I had to walk a lot of distance. 
Anyway, whatever said and done, the rail-fan in me ignited upon seeing the loco link of my train, a WDP-4 20046 from KJM depot/shed, was facing long hood forward.  Right at 10:35PM, the loco engineer (pilot) started to accelerate out of LTT and gradually gaining more speed as it rolled on the newly laid 5th line. The speed was just about okay until it reached Thane, the first schedule stop. The maximum speed it touched was 75KMPH however after Thane, the train took no time to reach 100KMPH, and once in a while it did 105KMPH.
        
        The second schedule stop was Kalyan Junction and for some reason we reached 10 minutes late, maybe due to numerous caution orders…… however after we left Kalyan Junction, I guess the only thing the loco engineers did was to put the joystick in accelerating mode! We were cruising at 105 for most of the time after being hit by a speed restriction of 20KMPH and as a result we reached Karjat on time.
I started to feel a little tired and considering a very long journey, I didn’t think twice before taking forty winks ……however I did see the WAG-7 class loco ‘bankers’ (locos used to assist the trains to climb the mountains) getting attached to my train. I also saw the armed guards patrolling the train constantly as this train passes through one of the dangerous routes on the Indian Railways. I woke-up when the train was about to roll into Pune Junction, running on time. A bunch of passengers disembarked here however a lot of people boarded the train; I guess a few of them were genuine passengers while others were so-called railway employees traveling to Solapur. As soon as the train rolled out of Pune, I decided to go to sleep.
The next day I woke-up to find my train stranded at a small station on a loop line. I knew the reason, crossing of trains from opposite direction due to single line diesel territory. We were 15 minutes into halt but no sign of train crossing; however it was after 25 minutes I saw a passenger train bound for Solapur coming to a halt. We were still made to wait even after the passenger train left and I overheard from one of my co-passengers that ‘KK’ a.k.a Karnataka express bound for New Delhi will soon cross and sure it was. After about 50 minutes I saw this ‘KK’ with twin WDM-2A class locos from Itarsi shed/depot skipping the station from one of the loop lines. This ‘KK’ express has an interesting history, I will divulge it later!! We finally got the starter and rolled out of the station. I wondered if we were an hour late, well… not quite!! The run was reasonably good, touched 100KMPH speed regularly and I’d say the WDP-4 did a good job!! We were running on time thanks to the slack time given to this train. Meanwhile, I’ve had a good chat with the pantry guy, he sounded interesting fella with good knowledge of train timetable. He was very curious to know if I was from USA and didn’t believe me when I said I’m from Mumbai!!! I have noticed one thing while traveling especially by train that a lot of people are very curious to learn but finds difficult to initiate the talk but once they do start, they become very close to us…so close that we feel like we have known them for ages!!! I was as usual enjoying the train ride, seeing the beautiful countryside made me feel very happy and of course the cold climate outside.
Later in the day I was fortunate enough to meet one of the railway officials traveling to Bangalore from Guntakal. It wasn’t difficult for me to start the conversation with him; I saw the railway ID card and asked him if he worked for the South Western Railway, his reply was affirmative!! After taking about the basic operation of the Indian Railways, I started to talk about the technical aspect and he was quite surprised to learn that I know a ‘lot’ of technical things about the Indian Railways. He said that he is working in the signaling department of the South Western Railway Zone. I’ve had a nice time with him, got to learn a lot of new things about the signaling system on the Indian Railways.  He also told me about the history of this KK express. The KK is actually prestigious Bangalore-New Delhi Karnataka express which in the 1970s used to run as Kerala-Karnataka express. One train used to start from Trivandrum as Kerala express and the other from Bangalore as Karnataka express and these 2 trains used to amalgamate at, I think, Secunderabad and hence the name KK express. Even after the separation of the 2 trains today, the name has stuck, sometimes for the one, sometimes for the other. 
 An unknown passenger train hauled by GTL WDM-2A class loco entering an unknown station 
                                                  The Sun sets but the journey goes on!!

I didn’t realize the time went by as I was so enwrapped in technical talk. Meanwhile, I saw a lot of trains passed by and though I don’t remember the name of each train, I did see Bhubaneshwar bound Prashanti express hauled by another WDP-4 class loco from KJM shed/depot and the other Chennai-Shridi express hauled by, I think, WDG-3A from GY shed/depot. But I did realize that my train was running late by an hour and I started to get a little worried because I didn’t want to miss my train to Guwahati and I’ve had a  1ittle over an hour to change over at Bangalore. When I enquired with one of the pantry guys, he said that the train would reach Bangalore City Junction (SBC) until after 11PM. I was appalled but I knew and was confident that we will make way before 11PM. As soon as we entered the suburbs of Bangalore I gotten very happy and even more so after I realize that the train is again running on time which means I will be at Bangalore City Junction at 10PM and will have about 1 hour 30 minutes. Fortunately the train didn’t take any unscheduled halt and entered SBC at 10PM, almost on time.
I was feeling a little tired after I got off of the train but was also excited to board Bangalore-Guwahati express for one reason; I always wanted to travel by this train to Guwahati. The Bangalore city looked very nice and clean, saw the new Bangalore ‘namma’ metro train system. ......However I would be wrong if I say I was not confused at Bangalore station, so I called up my good friend Akshay Iyer in Mumbai as he is very familiar and knows in and out of this place. He advised me that the train to Guwahati will depart from platform#6 and sure it was confirmed by the digital indicators on the platform. The crowd at the platform got denser; I guess almost everybody wanted to go to Guwahati and the worst affected was steerage. The train was scheduled……. but there was no sign of train even after 11PM (the schedule departure was 11:30PM). Meanwhile I saw 11013 Mumbai-Coimbatore express departing Bangalore after reversing, hauled by another loco i.e. WDM-3D class from Erode shed/depot on its way to Coimbatore, another 7 hours journey. At 11:10PM, my train (12509 Bangalore-Guwahati Superfast express) finally got shunted and I was shocked to see the un-reserved coaches getting completed satiated even before the train came to a complete stop. My coach was once again 5th from the loco (Coach# B3, a 2005 manufactured AC 3 Tier class, the coach was constructed at Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala). I felt a lot better after I boarded the train and in the cold ambience, the only thing I wanted to do was to catch some Z’s………

...From Bangalore to Shillong cont...







 

                                            
                     

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Cell Biology - One Question Multitudinous Possibilities!


  Telomeres and Targeting Telomerase- A Prelude
                                                                                               By Deepesh Soni
Telomeres are conglomerated of insistent DNA sequences at the end of one-dimensional chromosomes. There are 92 telomeres in human chromosomes at each end because humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Telomere, a ribonucleoprotein complex, is present at the end of the chromosomes to defend its haleness and furthermore to give one of the most indispensable things i.e. constancy to the chromosomes. Telomeres are a part of DNA rich in G base (TAAGGG) in almost all craniates. One of the most interesting things about telomeres is that they are bound by a complex called shelterin. Shelterin is composed of 6 complexes namely POT1 and TPP heterodimers, telomeric-repeat binding factors i.e. TRF1 and TRF2, and Rap1 and Tin2. Another interesting realism about telomeres is that they contain epigenetic modifications like DNA hypermethylation and modification of histone which, interestingly, acts as down regulator of telomere length (1). Sex hormones such as androgens and estrogens, on the other end, act as a telomere up regulators and this made me wonder if epigenetic modifications maybe used to target telomeres in neoplastic cells or in normally dissevering cells and decipher the change (if any) in the structure of a cell as a whole or part of it. Any change, however, in the structural integrity of telomeres or the protein complex will have substantial change in the functional property of telomeres. Shortening of telomeres is colligated with cell division over a period of time, telomeres gradually subjugates in size due to ‘end-replication problem’ as DNA polymerase cannot continue replication of the linear ends of the chromosome and this is one of the reasons imputed to senescence in vertebrates. In addition, any change in the chromosome structure will have DNA repair mechanisms activated barricading the crusade of a cell from one stage to the other of the cell cycle. 
Telomerase is a cellular reverse transcription enzyme that takes care of telomeres attrition via addition of TAAGGG from the beginning. Telomerase, not unlike, telomeres consist of complex domains namely a subunit with reverse transcriptase activity (Tert), an RNA component (Terc) and Dyskerin (Dkc1), a stabilizer for Terc. In the absence of telomerase, telomeres will not be able to maintain shelterin integrity. Telomerase is an essential part of almost all tumor cells giving them the immortality however there is an exception to this statement. In some cancers such as Acute Myelocytic Leukemia (AML), it was found that (perhaps) telomerase does not play a role in the malignancy, or there’s an alternate pathway which floods the telomerase in the cells. Also, down regulation of telomerase is associated with aging of cells and cell death via apoptotic pathways.


Materials and Methods:
   There are various methods available to detect the presence of telomeres in a cell. One of the methods is Fluorescent in Situ Hybridization (FISH). FISH is used to detect different types of DNA sequences using fluorescent probes which bind to the sequences corresponding to the probes and can be detected using fluorescence microscope. Other techniques include Southern Blot and Polymerase Chain Reaction are also equally useful. Telomerase, too, can be detected by using techniques such as Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay, using antigen targeting specific epitope on telomerase. Other techniques involve the use of Southern blot, Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis.

 My Research Intent:
     After reading versatile research papers on telomere, I marveled if it would be possible to target one of the complexes of shelterin by modifying epigenetic marks such as histone or DNA methylation and bypassing the telomerase activity in that cell. Secondly, to insulate telomerase from the tumor and normal cells and canvass the structures and the difference, if any, in both types of cell. Thirdly, to confirm the function of sex hormones in the up regulation of telomeres in tumor, as well as normal cells and compare the results.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Raipur Trip- A Report

Yeppiee!!!! Got another opportunity to travel a long distance and this time to Raipur, the capital city of Chattisgarh state in central India. I traveled on 12/17/2010 and returned to Mumbai on 12/21/2010. I have always been an ardent train traveler and getting an opportunity to travel by train and in steerage class makes me feel very felicitous and on tenterhooks to figure out the loco links of trains in which I’m traveling makes me even more excited. Anyway, coming to the point…..I didn’t have enough time to book my tickets and was little discerning that I would have to clamber to get confirm tickets albeit it was not a peak season to travel. I made my choice to travel by Pune-Bilaspur express (rather weird choice if you’re not a train enthusiast) instead of traveling by train that would take me to Raipur from Mumbai in less time. Anyway, it was my choice and I always prefer to take a longer route. I looked at the availability of berths on 12/10/2010 but I wan’t surprised to see wait list and I knew it wouldn’t make a gumption to book my ticket and I, as a consequence, decided to wait until 12/15/2010 and why?????…well..to book the ticket in Tatkal (urgent) quota and hoped to get a confirm ticket.

         On 12/15/2010 I was prepared to book my ticket to Raipur in Pune-Bilaspur express and at 7:55am I was setup with my laptop and internet connection and at exactly 8am I hop-skipped to http://www.irctc.co.in and repleted my details but regrettably, and even after having high speed internet, the website didn’t process my reservation request….. and when I logged in again I blew out of the water to see wait list number 21 in mere 2 minutes but I had a kinda déjà vu that I will face this state of affair. However, I did have an alternate plan to travel by Pune-Howrah (Calcutta) Azad Hind express but I was not particularly interested in traveling by this train and….the reason??? Well…this and other Howrah (Calcutta) bound trains, due to increased onrush by Maoists, were and are still rescheduled and departs from respective stations to Howrah at around 4am ,…………but at the end of the day I didn’t have any option left and with rather hebetudinous mood booked my ticket in the least preferent train i.e. Azad Hind express..At the same time I also booked my ticket to Pune by Hyderabad bound Hussain Sagar express but I barely managed to get confirm ticket. 

        On the day of departure i.e. 12/17/2010 I was manifestly excited but also spooky about meeting my cousins because I didn’t see them for over 7 years and to see them at such short notice made me feel timorousness. ….I packed my bags and left my house around 2000 hours to Victoria Terminus(VT) station to embark the train to Pune, schedule to depart at 2150 hours. At VT station there was a Brobdingnagian herd of people ready to board Hussian Sagar express to Hyderabad and it was not unusual. The train was shunted by a WDS-6 class loco and thanks to the digital coach indicators, I didn’t have to hunt for my coach. The carriage was quite new, manufactured in the year 2007 by Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML),  Bangalore but one thing I don't like about BEML carriages is that the window bars  of  non-AC class are pretty 2-dimensional as compared with window bars of carriages made by Integrated Coach Factory or Rail Coach  Factory which gives a clear view of the loco and the train while on curve. Anyway, as I ensconced at my berth, I felt dog-tired and wanted to sleep but the thought of seeing the train skip Dadar at good speed kept my energy level middlingly high…….. and this is the only reason I booked my ticket in this train.(This is one of the trains which skips Dadar). Well…..I knew the loco link even before the corresponding train arrived to Mumbai from Hyderabad (This is the train that shares its rake with 17031/32 Hyderabad Mumbai express). The loco link was, undoubtedly, Kazipeth WDM-3A (didn’t see the road number but I guess it was 18893) and exactly at 2150 hours, the loco engineer sounded both the low and high pitch hooters and we took off…..The train took around 7 minutes to join main line..well…quite surprising!!!! After it linked with the main down fast line, for some reason, the train stopped abruptly just before Sandhurst Road station and I couldn’t figure out the reason, maybe a train was being shunted ahead of us. After a 3-minute unscheduled halt, we picked up the speed and skittered Byculla station at 60kmph due to speed restriction. The loco engineers didn’t waste any time and floored immediately after Byculla and in no time we touched 90kmph approximately. My excitation reinvigorated me and the feeling of being dog-tired died out as Dadar approached, well….. we were still doing around 90kmph but I had no doubt that we will touch 100kmph at Dadar and ……..finally….. there it was!!!……skipping Dadar at good speed but not exactly 100kmph , a sight which is still very fresh in my mind. In fact, I still remember the day in the year 1992, 12/24/1992 to be precise, when I traveled to Hyderabad in the same train (this train at that time was known as Minar express) and I can still sense the taste of skipping Dadar then. As we skipped Dadar, the train started to floor even more and we skittered Kurla at over 100kmph, (I guess Arzan must have gotten excited on reading this as this (Kurla) is his best-loved place to take videos and yes!!!…Kurla is a nirvana for train enthusiasts like Arzan and me) however as we approached Vidyavihar we came to stand still and this time I knew the reason…. 18029 LTT(Mumbai)- Shalimar (Calcutta) ‘bullock cart’ express was given penchant to move ahead of us….. but after an abbreviated halt, we accelerated and touched 100kmph in no time, it was quite a sight to skip suburban stations at high speed. At Thane, we slowed down and thanks to ‘bullock cart’ express, we stopped again just before Thane station. We were already delayed by 15 minutes but I was not worried about it. We had a reduced speed run until we came out of Parksik tunnel but once we skipped Diva Junction, the loco engineers again showed that they are not here to perambulate. We entered Kalyan junction, the first commercial halt, at 2255 hrs, delayed by about 10 minutes. I started to feel a lot tired and decided to jump on the berth to catch some Z’s. After we left Kalyan Junction, I had no clue about the speed of the train or which station we skipped but the only thing I remember is hearing blowers of WAG-7 class locos ready to bank my train at Karjat, a territory once ruled by mighty WCG-2 class locos…(hey WCG-2s!!!, you guys will always be in my heart). Pune was schedule to arrive at 0120 hrs and by the time we left Karjat we were running on time…… but even if we were further delayed I was not in hurry because my connecting train to Raipur was not schedule to depart until 0225 hrs. The run was good after Lonavala and I was fully awake by the time we entered the suburbs of Pune with Kazipeth WDM-3A going strong with its melodious hoots still bombinating in my ears. After a long spell of high speed, we came to stand still just outside Pune station, now…this is a kinda modus operandi I guess, every time I travel to Pune I have always experienced the abominable wait due to non-availability of platforms, it’s so-close-yet-so-far kinda feeling. Finally we entered Pune station platform number 4 at 0125 hours, delayed by 5 minutes but that’s reasonable. I appreciate the efforts of loco engineers and thanks to the slack time given to this train I didn’t worry about getting big time delay. It was chilling in Pune with minimum temperature of around 47 degrees F and I didn’t even have warm cloths on but I enjoyed it. Well…talking about the city of Pune, I have always enjoyed traveling and this is one of the cities I like the most.

END OF PART I

PART II:

         It was 0140 hrs of 12/18/2010 and at platform number 3 of Pune Junction the crowd was getting denser and I almost horripilated but I tried convincing myself that this crowd wouldn’t board Azad Hind express and I guess it kinda worked for me because I heard the announcement that before Azad Hind express departs, LTT(Mumbai)-Coimbatore express is schedule to arrive on platform number 3. The train arrived, behind a WDP-4 class loco, on time at 0150 hrs and I was hoping to see, if not most, some of the crowd board Coimbatore express….but..to my horror! only about fistful of people boarded the train, leaving behind a massive growth of crowd to board Azad Hind express…NOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At sharp 0200hrs, the loco enginner of Coimbatore express sounded high pitch hoot (ohh!! What melodious sound EMD locos make, makes you feel you are in the Americas!!!) and off it go on its way to Coimbatore via Bangalore. I was hoping my train will be shunted soon but it was 0220 hrs and still no sign of my train..wow!!! where is Azad Hind express????? and no promulgation whatsoever. I started to feel a lot tired without proper sleep and especially a hell lot of crowd around. It was around 0310 hrs when finally my train was announced…but hold on a second!!! …….it said the train is again rescheduled and will depart at 0345hours…well…okay….look at the brighter side of this..at least now I know the train will depart albeit further delayed. In a meantime, I spotted an IRCTC Bharat Darsan train hauled by a WDM-3D from Itarsi depot, a rather strange loco to spot at Pune but I was happy. 

        After a while, finally I spotted a beam of red light flashing on the rear SLR coach and I knew this is it, my train is being shunted. The crowd started to get ready to board the train and I, too, got ready. Before the train came to a complete stop, the unreserved carriages got wadded completely. Again, thanks to the digital indicators, I didn’t hunt for my coach number but to my horror again, a massive crowd was to embark on my coach and they were already restless and started to bang the door to open and some over enthusiastic guys (not train enthusiastic) :) tried to enter the coach through the emergency window but unfortunately it didn’t open..well I guess if they participate in Olympics…they have a fair chance to raise the bars for India …:) . I knew the doors were locked from inside and will have to wait until the coach attendant arrives. The moment the door opened, people entered the coach like cervids trying to take to the woods from Osteolaemus species in some African country. I, too, was a part of the cervids and after I barely managed to enter my coach, due to total darkness (no lights), I found it very unmanageable to find my berth but eventually I did and momentarily the lights and fans were turned on and I felt a lot meliorate… It was already 0340 hrs and the only thing I wanted to do was catch some serious Z’s. The train was hauled by a WDM 3A class loco of Pune depot and later (from Manmad station) the train was suppose to get a WAM-4/WAP-4 class loco of Bhusaval depot. …At around 0350 hrs, the WDM-3A sounded its hooters and we took off from Pune and I felt a lot better yet at the same time knew that the train wouldn’t reach Raipur until 0100hrs the next day.I enjoyed the acceleration of WDM-3A and in no time we touched 105kmph and I enjoying the Alco sounds. We arrived at Daund junction, our first commercial stop, the loco transposed and attached at the other end of the train. We started after a 15-minute halt and I was absolutely exhausted and didn’t think twice before sleeping. 

      I was awakened by the sound of a WAP-4 class loco at round 9am and there I was….at Manmad. I was really hoping to get a WAP-4 class loco attach to my train but…as my ‘luck’ would have it, it (my train) got a WAM-4 class loco and I was totally disappointed…well..not that the WAM-4 locos are bad but the joy of traveling in a WAP-4 hauled train is something very different…the smooth acceleration of a WAP-4 locos cannot be compared with a WAM-4 locos. After a rather long wait at Manmad station, we took off with WAM-4 apparently struggling to accelerate a 19-coach train but finally we touched 110kmph and it was a top-drawer to see some quasi–major stations skip at top speed, especially on curves. I was as usual at the door, door plating for most of the time, I didn’t even care to have my lunch and even though I was very hungry I forgotten all about it while door plating. We reached Bhusaval Junction, a major sation. Here, New Delhi bound Goa express overtook us with twin WDM-3As of Pune depot and both locos were live. I wonder why this train didn’t get a WAP-4 loco from Manmad??? Also, Howrah bound Geetanjali express from Mumbai arrived at Bhusaval right beind Goa express. I was skeptical that Geetanjali express will leave before us however, it didn’t happen but I was sure Geetanjali express will overtake us somehwere. Unfortunately, after Bhusaval we didn’t run at top speed and rarely touched 90kmph until Badnera (According to Arzan, this section got lot of gradients and sharp curves) After a brief spell of consistent run, we were taken on a loop of a small roadside station (I don’t remember the name) and I knew the reason and my worst fear became true…The home signal of that station turned proceed on the main line and I saw a WAP-4 hauled Geetanjali express overtook us though at not so good speed. At this time we were running late by over 2 hours but I was hoping that the train will cover up the lost time due to slack time given to this train, as well. Meanwhile I felt the hunger strike my stomach real hard and without giving a second thought, I ordered a veg-meal. The food was reasonably scrumptious but I was not worried about the gustatory sensation as much as I was worried about obliterating my hunger. It was getting warmer outside and after a heavy meal with lot of rice, I felt dopey and took a catnap while door plating (well…good that I didn’t fall off from moving train). We entered Badnera around 4:30pm another major stop, still running late by over 2 hours. The food vendors didn’t waste any time to sell their preparations and the vox of ‘chai-cahi’ by tea vendors made me feel very nostalgic. We left Badnera in about 10 minutes and the loco engineers showed WAM-4′s real performance. We were at 110kmph in no time and I, still at the door (and alive:) ) started to enjoy the high speed run again. Nagpur, the Orange City, was not too far away and I was hoping to reach around 7:30pm while keeping a close look at the km marking on OHE poles. The train abruptly slowed down, temporary speed restriction I guess, as we entered the suburbs of Nagpur and crossed Ajni station, I experienced the so-close-yet-so-far kinda feeling again. The train stopped at Nagpur outer for over 20 minutes due to non-availability of platforms (FYI, Nagpur is a major and extremely busy junction connecting trains from North to South and East to West)We finally entered Nagpur around 8:30pm, now delayed by almost 150 minutes and we halted for over 30 minutes, one of the reasons being crew change. I was assuaged after we departed Nagpur and even more excited as the WAM-4 loco showed its real class and maintained 110kmph speed, for a moment I cerebrated that a WAP-4 loco took charge of my train but I was wrong. I was very tired and wanted to sleep but I knew if I sleep, I might miss my stop so I decided to enjoy the high speed run. At this time, we were running late by 3 hours and I demurred to reach Raipur around 0100hrs. Soon we entered the state of Chattisgarh and I was feeling happy and excited to meet my cousins. The run in the state of Chattisgarh was middlingly good with, I guess, lot of speed restrictions and of course, this section is dominated by freight trains….kinda henpecked the ardor of the loco engineers to run at top notch….It was getting colder outside and..I started to feel a little uncomfortable by now and regretted that I didn’t carry warm cloths…I thought I was cashing in one’s chips..

      We soon entered Durg station around 0000hrs and again we have had a long halt for some unknown reason, maybe a freight train was ahead of us. After we left Durg, the run was not too good, yet the loco engineer tried best to maintain top notch but I guess due a to freight train ahead, we struggled to reach 110kmph speed. I was again door plating but it was not that easy this time as it was chilling with temperature as low as 43 degrees F. Finally around 0100 hrs my train entered Raipur station and I was ready to disembark. My cousin had arrived at the station at 10pm to receive me and I regret that he had to wait for 3 hours at the station……but I guess this is how we become rail enthusiasts!!!!!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chasing the Maharajas'- A Trip Report


Chasing the Maharajas'- Well….yeah! That’s exactly what we (Arzan Kotval and I) did today i.e on 01/22/2011. Sounds kind of eldritch but…hold on a second…….our Maharaja for the day was….any guess????…..well…. It’s the Maharajas’ express which runs every fortnight..one of the expensive trains and the ticket costs up to US$ 20,000 for a single trip, besides,  it is hauled by all sorts of weird links,…links as remote as Shakurbasti………but..hold one a sec again… where on earth is this place?, I guess half of the people in Mumbai (Bombay) would start scratching their heads and for me, I’ve already started to scratch my head and while I’m typing this, I still didn’t Google it.  Anyway, coming to the point……first, I’d personally like to thank the individual(s) who invented the cell phones…and why???…… Because, had it not been for the call from Arzan, I’d have missed our Maharajas’ and also thanks to Arzan for coming to my place a little too soon.
I was in the middle of my lunch when I got a call from Arzan asking me to rush to Vidyavihar as the Maharajas’ is on it’s way..worming out of LTT (Mumbai)…well…..I didn’t blow out of the water when I saw my poor results in exams while in school as much as I got blown out of water when I heard this piece of news and I told to myself….rushhhhhhh!…I guess my mom must have gotten a shock of her life to see me missing so abruptly and without informing her. …but I’m happy she didn’t file missing report at the police station.
I left my lunch incomplete…and in the excitement forgot to wash my hands and, of course, forgot to flush my mouth with delicious mint flavor mouthwash and…… countenanced the bacteria to relish the banquet of scrumptious food prepared by my mom and, my mom probably received a lot of benedictions from those bacteria and….well… just in case if you’re wondering, …..they’re dead now…RIP!!!!!!

 I sprinted to Vidyavihar train station with my camera and other contraptions,……it usually takes 5 minutes to walk from my house to the Vidyavihar station but this time I guess I kinda fractured all records and reached Vidyavihar in about 1 minute and 50 second..wow! Where’s my prize???? (kidding). J  

I was all set up with my camera and on the foot-over-bridge I took this picture….(below)
WDS-6 class loco
The WDS-6 class locomotive of Kurla shed got the opportunity to convey the Maharajas’ express to Victoria Terminus, Mumbai.
And then came a series of clicks and not really disquieted about the police and security presence at the station…
Here’s another shot after I descended from the foot-over-bridge….
WCAM3 and WDS-6 seems to greet each other

Our Maharajas’ started to kick the dust while a WCAM-3 at the helm of Pune bound Singhad express waits patiently for the Maharajas’ to clear.
And this shot (below)..I guess I was not really happy for an EMU bound to Victoria Terminus arrived at wrong time and kinda obdurately obturated the view of the Maharajas’ when I didn’t want.   I always get things when I don’t really need it but have to wait really long when I really need it..Wonder why this happens with me almost always.


The smiling face of the lady on the EMU car (beside the number 76277) seems 

to be telling me that…..”there you go! Missed your chance to see and click 

Ratlam WDM-3A”.

We boarded the same EMU to feel the joy of parallel run with Arzan’s handycam and my camera gaining other passengers attention…. The WDS-6 didn’t seem to floor well..or so it seemed….An idea stuck in Arzan’s mind (An idea! Wow! How remote is that in my mindJ)………not that it does not stuck in mind but it is a rare event J…….Arzan asked me to disembark at Sion and click smoking pictures…..smoking who???? Well..of course the locomotives… and I couldn’t disagree with him.
Here is a picture taken at Sion station….The WDS-6 going strong and, of course, flooring well !!!!!
WDS-6 flooring well and seems to be in hurry to reach Victoria Terminus
 
 And another picture, this time, however, I managed to click the Ratlam WDM-3A (below) with no smiling lady around this time, however there were a few bunch of lads requesting to take their pictures…
Finall I got you pal!!! Ratlam WDM3A trailing the Maharajas' express.
             
Wow!!!! What a clean looking loco! Guys at GZB, are you listening????????
Arzan’s another idea (wow!! Another idea!!! ) was to board an MRVC (Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation) EMU…those white and swanky looking trains with the maximum speed of 100kmph but to our complete disappointment, the next train turned out to be a Dadar bound DC EMU…well…well..well….we still boarded it, in a hope to find an MRVC EMU at Matunga (next station)..and sure we did this time, but not too soon as our Maharajas’ rushed to its destination quite fast… I guess I underestimated the WDS-6 loco. We, too, arrived at Victoria station in about 20 minutes and found that our Maharajas’ taking rest at platform number 19 of Victoria station before a really long trip…Meanwhile we met Abhishek Bajpai and his group, they were on their way to Braganza valley for a 3-day rail fanning trip….wow!!! You guys get time to go on a 3-day rail fanning trip???..How I wish that the rail fanning was a paid job!!! J
.Later they boarded the Deccan Queen express to Pune and from Pune they booked Ernakulam (Cochin) bound Purna express to Magdoan (Goa)..One of the trains I traveled frequently while I was studying in Kerala…In a meantime, I took the opportunity to click our Maharajas’ resting at platform 19 of Victoria station (below)
WDS-6 resting at Victoria Station with the Maharajas'

 All these while I was aware of the heavy security presence at this station and Jan 26th round the corner but as my ‘luck’ would have it (I guess the ‘luck’ seems to have an animus relation with me) one of the security guards wanted to run a ‘check’ me but….. later let me go without any checking…wow!! I wonder what made his mind change!!!!
We bid goodbye to Abhishek et al’ and proceeded to catch an EMU to experience another parallel run. Again….. an idea stuck in Arzan’s mind (hey Arzan! Quite a lot of ideas stuck in your mindJ) and we decided to board Kurla bound DC EMU. We expected to see, first, Nagpur bound Nandigram express and later our Maharajas’. We were at the door, keeping a close eye on down fast line and at Sion we encountered a parallel run with Nandigram express and I was impressed with WDM-3A acceleration. As we entered Kurla (the last stop) we were hoping to see our Maharajas’ blast past at high speed but just when we had a coup d’oeil at track number 5… and repugnance!!!!!!! Again as our ‘luck’ would have it…another Victoria Terminus bound EMU, with a face of smiling lady, stymied our last hope of seeing our beloved Maharajas. Ohhh!!! geeez!!!!!!  I was absolutely disappointed and tempestuous and even more was Arzan…The look on the Arzan’s face told the complete chronicle and if a mere look could obliterate …I guess the driver of that EMU would have had popped his clogs hundreds of time…… As we bid goodbye to our Maharajas’ express and in rather sad way….I rushed home…and those bacteria still procreating but were minutes away from their death…and Arzan with his deplorable face went to capture the Deccan Queen.

I guess my mom was brimming with anger…no, not for leaving abruptly but for leaving lunch incomplete….I was exhausted and in critically need of water after a stint with the Maharajas’ but I was ready for another stint and this is all for the love of the Indian Railways!!!!!!!!  
And yes!! Before I may conclude this report…I guess I can stop scratching my head now because I found that Shakurbasti is in New Delhi.           Thank you!     Google baba!!!!!

                       I dedicate this trip report to Jack McKinnon
                            And, of course, to all the hoi polloi who loves trains
                           And yes!!!!!! Thank you for reading all the way down!!!!