Double Decker!

Finally got an opportunity to travel by the much maligned and vilified Double Decker from Bangalore City (SBC) to Chennai Central (MAS).

Reaching SBC from where I was staying with my in-laws in Bannerghatta Road, was a bit of a separate mini-adventure that almost resulted in a photo-finish arrival at the back gate of the K.S.R.Bengaluru City station.  The cab ride took us through areas of Bangalore that were completely new to me (not that I’m ultra-familiar with the city I must admit).

“The entire Bannerghatta Road is blocked sir!’’ informed the cab driver in Tamizh as we loaded our two bags and a back-pack into the boot.

Well, so what?  We were starting sufficiently in time – and it was a Sunday afternoon so hopefully the traffic would be relatively lesser.

(Note: I realize that the above line sounds like a forerunner to us catching the train by the skin of our teeth or that we had altogether missed the train.  No such high-tension drama happened – we managed to catch the train with about five minutes to spare).

The ride to the City station took us through all the phases possible that J.P.Nagar consists of (starting from the 9th), Basavanagudi, the back lane of Lalbagh (or so it seemed) and finally New Tharagupet.  The last was particularly interesting – to me it resembled New Delhi’s Paharganj of the 1970s.  New Tharagupet seemed to be a wholesale market for pulses, lentils, groundnuts – with and without their shells, and even raisins, and dry and wet dates.  All of them piled up separately on the roads in the shape of mini-pyramids.  The most surprising part was that the traditional படி and the ஆழாக்கு seemed to be used for measure and NOT the normal metric weights!

Exiting new Tharagupet, and crawling inch-by-inch through some extremely high-tension bottlenecks near the Bangalore City Metro Station (they were re-laying parts of the roads and we know what THAT means), I realized we were passing the back gate of SBC.  I asked the cab driver to drop us at that gate itself.

‘’No sir, I will drop you at the front gate.  That will be easier for you to board the Chennai-bound trains’’.

‘’No,’’ I replied very firmly.  We had been in that cab for the past one and a half hours and I was heartily sick of the drive and the forced ’Bangalore darshan’.

‘’It will take you at least a minimum of 20 – 25 minutes before you are able to take us to the front gate.  The three of us are perfectly capable of walking across to the platforms if necessary using the foot-over-bridge.  Please drop us here.’’

And it turned out that the Double Decker was stationed at platform 6 at SBC which was just a minute’s walk from where we got down from the cab.  Talk about serendipity!

Headed by a regal WAP-7, the Double Decker departed smoothly and noiselessly on dot at its scheduled time of 14:30 hours.

The Double Decker (DD) in my opinion is surely one of the most reviled trains possible on the Indian Railways (IR).  Right from the way it’s designed (all faulty as I’ve heard), to the lack of amenities plus the constant coming and going of food-vendors which makes the air in the AC coaches stale – complaints about this train would fill the proverbial book.

During a very brief halt at Katpadi…

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • The seating definitely is a bit cramped no doubt. It *could* have been better laid out in order to give the passengers a wee bit more space.  Especially in the triple seater section, the middle passenger perhaps has it the worst if he’s seated amidst people who aren’t quite size zero.
  • However, the train, given its timings, was fast, efficient, kept good time and arrived at MAS about 5-7 minutes before time.
  • I have also heard numerous complaints about the loos being far too less for so many passengers packed into one coach but as far as I could see, people really weren’t exactly queueing up to go to the loo (my coach was full) unlike how it happens on long distance flights where people literally DO queue up. No one seems to complain then!
  • The luggage racks do pose a problem but people adjusted anyway and it was NOT as if one had to swim through various suitcases to reach one’s seat – which is the impression I got after hearing people’s opinions.
  • The AC worked very well, and to me the air didn’t seem go stale with the food vendors trying to sell cutlets, vadas, samosas and dosas. So overall it was definitely not a bad experience for me.
  • Though nothing to do with the train, one high-point in the journey was the sight of the bone-dry Palar River just before Katpadi having furiously gushing waters! This was the first time in my four+ decades of existence that I’m seeing water (and that too in copious proportions) in the Palar.

Bottomline – the Double Decker will always ensure that one is able to travel between Chennai and Bangalore – seats will mostly be available. Personally, it’s a great alternative to bus-travel (shudder) and definitely a less polluting alternative anyway. For people who keep complaining can jolly well travel by the Executive CC in the Shatabdis. You can’t eat your cake and have it.

About Mohan Santhanam

Carnatic vocalist, based in Chennai. Disciple of Late Shri T.R.Subramanyam (TRS).
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