That Love Hate Relationship with Indian Railways

I actually have a very close association with the Indian Railways. My father used to work and retired from Indian Railways as a Chief Signal Engineer! So, my childhood was spent in a huge railway house in a small town in UP. It was full of mango, litchi and guava trees. And it goes without saying I traveled a lot in trains. In fact all the major journeys were train journeys as low cost airlines were not even conceptualized during my growing up years in India!

Train journeys used to be fun. Even then I used to like window seats. I would gaze outside for hours sitting by the window. In fact it is while passing through a small town in a train at sunset made me understand the word β€˜gaudhuli.’ Otherwise in the cities it is petrol fumes more than anything. Those were the days when people used to pack their own food on train journeys.

I now take more flights than trains. I prefer flights for longer journeys as it saves time. I still love taking a Shatabdi, more so if I am going to the hills. The hours of travel are reasonable, it takes you away from crowded Delhi and I still find the landscape fascinating. I also don’t mind taking an overnight train but anything longer and I want to take a flight!


That Love Hate Relationship with Indian Railways

Over the years the maintenance of trains has gone down. I wish they could keep it cleaner. I was once traveling from Jodhpur to Delhi and the AC coach had rats. It put me off the train like anything.

And even though I still like traveling in a Shatabdi, I completely grew out of the food in train they serve. It has been years since I started skipping on the main course. It is bland, has no taste and the quality is highly suspect. I now see that Chhavi, my daughter, does the same. My family knows this, so they keep something ready for us however late we are in reaching home.


Travelkhana- Photo Provided by the Company

And it is because of this I am eagerly waiting to experience food service from third party food delivery in trains with vendors like TravelKhana. Being able to order food in train online sounds exciting at this point of time.

After all, I do not like going hungry on trains and I hate it even more that my daughter refuses meals in train as well. It would be a great relief to get food in train which is good from TravelKhana. Otherwise it would be back to packing food from home for me soon!

40 thoughts on “That Love Hate Relationship with Indian Railways”

    • Archana as dad was in the railways I have fond memories particularly of our railway home. But these days I too end up hating them for lack of cleanliness and bad food.

  1. I am probably one of those rare ones left who can’t have a train journey without having the train-ka-khana.
    Hate those cockroaches though.
    Tried travelkhana while I was going home from Delhi in Dec’14; the food was served at Jhansi and was quite good and filling. The experience recently in June was bad. I think it depends on the hotel you choose. A bad choice can lead to a bad taste for long.

    • See here is something for you to try and give your comparison then on the various services.

  2. I like train journey but avoid these days because railway platform are too crowded & not cleaned.
    changing platforms with luggage are so painful as escalators never works.

  3. TravelKhana concept is really good. I have been tried their services for a number of time, they are good atlese far beetter from IRCTC patry car food.

  4. Train journey is quite comfortable if you have time to spare. Travelkhana looks good, the concept will be welcomed by the regular travellers, I hope… πŸ™‚

  5. But for the co passengers and their stories and chatting with them I dislike train journeys. And of course the scenic beauty too. Once I saw our lunch packs being stored in toilets of the compartment. That’s it!!! That was the end of eating train food.

    • I agree Indrani, I too have/heard seen too many horror stories about train food!

  6. Just loved the first shot……… As usual a very good read………. Train foods vary a lot between trains and most of the times I found the alternatives even worse……

    • Thank you so much Debopam. I agree the food on the stations can be even worse!

  7. Indian trains are pathetic. Once we boarded an AC 1st class from chennai to bangalore overnight train and guess what they had no Pantry! It costed us same as flight but no luxury other than an isolated compartment. Think how bad is then the other class! 3rd party vendors are a good option indeed and we try them as well but Rail Authorities need to wake up now.

    • I agree Roohi, I too want to see a better standard of train travel.

  8. All this food is really making me hungry… πŸ™‚

    I try to avoid train food most of the time as its a tradition for me to fall sick the very next day. So usually i stick to dry packed food but sometimes it cannot be avoided due to long distance travel.

    This reminds me of a train travel in 2002, was travelling to Bangalore along with my parents to a short vacation and I got the shock of my life when i found that my mom had prepared full four course meal for the first day of the journey. This included Chingri Malaikari which is basically huge prawns prepared in coconut milk. I was shocked to see them and protested but mom mom justified it with the fact that these cannot remain in the deep freezer back home so she decided to cook it up for the train journey rather than waste it.

    I was completely embarrassed as all the co passengers were constantly staring at us and I am sure they were enjoying smell of freshly cooked prawns πŸ™‚

    • Your mom is a rockstar! What is there to be embarrassed about? All those people would be in envy of you and your family. Please tell your mom that she is a superstar for cooking that meal.

  9. I seem to prefer train journeys to flights. And I often yearn for those sounds of an Indian railway station. They bring back SO many memories. πŸ™‚

    I’m sure the food could be better. I like how you put together this piece and brought in TravelKhana. Nice to know about it. Thanks for the info/link, Mridula.

    • Divya my father worked for railways! The only home I knew in the childhood was the railway home we stayed in. But I draw a line at rats.

  10. Love hate is an apt term Mridula. Travelling by train used to be fun once, now it seems a little difficult – mainly for three reasons – time, food and the toilets. Travel Khana would at least take care of one of these.

  11. ‘Bland; is the most perfect word that could have been used for ‘train food’.
    Hope things get better with the introduction of third-party vendors.

    The first photo made me very nostalgic.


  12. I am completely with you on all the points! The food they offer in Rajdhanis and Shatabdis is inedible and even my family knows I’ll come back home hungry! All the points you mentioned, ringed a bell!

  13. I love train journeys , I hate the way our Railways is , terrible terrible food, loos, attendants fighting for tips ……… the list is endless.
    Despite this I always prefer a train/bus journey over a flight … the co- passengers, gossip and the fun of seeing the scenery rushing by … love it !
    A nice post Mridula with a very apt title πŸ™‚

    • Thank you so much Kokila, this post seems to resonate with so many people.

  14. But just opposite to it I always prefer train travelling . Indian train can stop anywhere without any reason and this gives me a time to think to know about that local place . food never matters for me as I can eat each and everything which is easily available . Bhagwan ki kripa hai . and off course train journey is very cheap comparatively .

    • Yogi mere papa railway mein the so bahut close ka rishta hai railways se! Per abb thoda mushkil lagta hai. I agree Railways sasta tou hai.

  15. Last but not least the railway is an absolute necessity for hundreds of millions, who could without it neither commute to work, nor see their families. Because of this public necessity the Indian Railway is cheap, even by Indian standards.

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