Crawling Toward Bangalore

Travel Stories: Clay Shivers boarded the Indian train determined to live out his travel fantasies

01.22.13 | 11:10 AM ET

India trainPhoto by ruffin_ready via flickr (Creative Commons)

My friend Dale and I were on our way to the Chennai airport 20 years ago—in fact, Chennai was still called Madras back then—when I saw the picture. It was on a poster promoting tourism in India, and it showed a train so full of people that the very roof was filled with them. A brightly colored array of happy Indians sprouted from the top like flowers. And I suddenly, very desperately, wanted to be one of them. Who knows that the hell I was thinking; but at that moment, at that time, it was the only thing in the world that mattered to me.

“Let’s take the train,” I said.

“Okay!” Dale said. Then he went and threw up in a trash can. Dale had a bit of Madras Belly. We asked around and found the train station. According to the map Bangalore was a hundred miles away. We figured it would take about two hours.

We bought our tickets, splurging the extra several hundred thousand million gazillion rupees (about a dime) for what we thought was first class, walked up and got in, and it was all we could do not to step on the chicken guarding the door. This was like what first class must be like in a Russian gulag: there were easily 80 or so people crammed in with their luggage and their food, not to mention their poultry.

We found a seat down below; above us, on either side of our row, were cot-like beds. Nobody was on top of the train. Nor did I see anyone sitting on the front, another of my fantasies. I’d once seen a picture of Theodore Roosevelt sitting on the front of a train in South Africa surrounded by wild animals.

The train finally crawled away from the station. I waited for it to pick up steam. But it just crawled and crawled. People outside the train’s open door walked by, easily outpacing the Train That Couldn’t.

An hour later we had made it, by my estimation, about a hundred yards, stopping three times to take in passengers. Dale had clambered up to the bunk above and promptly fallen asleep. What a fool! He was going to miss out on all the excitement! The costumery the Indians around me wore, based upon their caste and religious orientation, greens and yellows and oranges, was bright and vibrant.

After 10 stops, still not technically even out of Madras, a man with a black briefcase, wearing grey slacks and a short sleeve button down blue shirt, open at the collar, sporting a pair of gold chains around his neck, came in and sat down. He immediately turned to me and said, “I went to school in Pennsylvania. I am Rahim!” I looked down at myself and around at everyone else and I definitely stood out. But I could have been English or Australian or Canadian. This guy clearly liked to assume things.

I shook his hand.

‘Where are you going?” he asked.

“Bangalore,” I said.

“Good. Very long trip. Much time to refresh on you my English!”

“What about you?” I asked. “Where are you from?”

“I am being from Beirut.”

“That place is a mess!” I said. He seemed, rightly, to be insulted by this. But then he recovered and smiled hugely.

“It’s very lovely! You will come for a visit! We will go to cafes and drink tea and smoke a hookah, and you will see, it is the Paris of the Middle East!”

Sure it is, I thought. I watched CNN. I read American newspapers. The place was a hellhole. But let him think what he wanted.

“You’ve taken the train before?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m a car salesman, and I go back and forth and back.”

“How long is the trip?”

He looked at his watch. “It depends. But we should get there in time for dinner tomorrow night,” he said.

I would have done a spit-take had I been drinking anything. I looked at my watch. It was 2 in the afternoon. Dinner tomorrow night, an early dinner, was 28 hours away!

“Do you eat dinner in the morning?” I asked hopefully.

“No, I eat dinner in the night of course.”

“Is tomorrow, where you come from, really just later on today?”

He looked at me like I was mentally deranged, but only briefly. “This train very very very very slow. See for yourself!” he said, pointing out the door where a woman wearing a green sari, carrying a bundle of sticks on her head, walked by, leaving us in her wake.

Twenty eight hours…

Eventually the people on the platforms became fewer and fewer, buildings gave way to grassland, and we were in the country. You could smell smoke in the air as villages burned their cooking fires. I stared out the window wondering when the drink or snack cart might come by.

Dale woke up and climbed down and rubbed his eyes and squinted and looked out the window. “Are we there yet?” he asked.

“Not by a long shot,” I said. “This is Rahim.”

“I am Rahim!” Rahim said.

“When is the snack service?” I asked.

“There is no snacks on this train. That is why you are seeing all of the people with their own food.” I looked around and, sure enough, people were eating their own food. Idlis seemed to be popular (steamed cakes made from rice batter), as well as steaming bowls of rice with daal. The chicken seemed safe—for now.

This was a travesty of an idea. All because of some silly picture we had discovered the world’s slowest train. The only reason we were even going to Bangalore was because we were told we had to see The Big Bull. Whatever that was. Yesterday it seemed important.

The air grew cool and night came, and you could see the orange lights of villages dotting the hills. I tried sleeping, but I was too hungry. The train stopped at a platform in the middle of absolutely nowhere and Rahim jumped off and disappeared. He came back with three small bags of potato chips and three strange pouches of juice.

“Dinner!” he said, handing us chips and juice. Dale eyed the juice suspiciously, as he probably will all food for the rest of his life. He drank it anyway and ate the chips slowly. We offered to pay Rahim but he would hear none of it.

“It is a gift. You must not refuse it!” That was fine with me.

It got darker and darker and I could see all the stars in the entire universe looking down on us as the train plugged along. I felt something heavy on my shoulder and looked over at the top of Rahim’s head. It was brown with a sparse supply of scraggly black hairs and it smelled like a lemon. Not a bad idea, I thought, and leaned on Dale, who leaned on the window.

Sleep took me in bits and pieces, seconds here, seconds there, and time eked away. The train would lull me to sleep only to yank me awake whenever it stopped. All through the night the train stopped at empty stations; occasionally two or three people got off or a person got on; but mostly nothing happened.

Chemical things were happening in people’s bodies and the train’s odor grew more and more rank. I leaned over and realized I could smell myself, never a good sign.  Rahim’s head seemed to grow heavier and heavier.

Dawn came and voices could be heard as people came slowly back to life. Rahim’s head jerked and he sat up straight. At the next stop he got off to pray.

“Where are you to be staying in Bangalore?” he asked when he returned.

I told him we had no plans and he told us he knew the perfect place. “I am very knowledgeable about Bangalore, you will see! We will stay in big room together and be saving money that way!”

I looked at Dale and he shrugged. He didn’t give a crap. I didn’t care either. I just wanted to get off the train. It was three or four long eternities and six bags of potato chips and several strange juices later that I began to see a change in the train station populations. More and more people could be seen getting on and off, and more of the people getting on were wearing business clothes. We were getting close.

The day got warmer and I found new energy.

“I think I will go up on the roof now,” I said. I started to get up, but Rahim stopped me.

“No. This is crazy thing. You will fall onto your head.”

“It’s okay. I saw a picture of a train and the roof was filled with people.”

“Yes, this is true. But they are falling off all the time. You fall off and you are nowhere. You would die I think.”

I got up and walked over to the door and looked out and immediately knew I would not be going up on the roof. But I did jump off and walk a little bit for exercise. It was sort of fun getting on and off such a damnably slow train.

We pulled in to Bangalore around 5 in the evening. We were desperate for food and showers and sleep. We shared a motorized rickshaw down dark alleys and unknown streets in a city neither Dale nor I knew anything about. We had given our lives to Rahim. The rickshaw pulled up in front of what looked like an army barracks painted orange. Rahim walked in and we followed; words were exchanged and Rahim said, “You must be giving him money now.”

“How much?”

He mentioned a number that came out to about one American dollar. Impossibly cheap, even by Indian standards. We were directed up the stairs to a dark room with three twin beds in it that smelled worse than we did. The room was deeply dirty and the mattresses were miserably thin and the sheets felt like Brillo pads.

What a dumb picture, I thought, tossing my backpack on the bed.

Editor’s note: This story has been modified slightly since it was originally posted.


Clay Shivers is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. You can follow his adventures at gallivantingexplorer.com.


92 Comments for Crawling Toward Bangalore

Noel 01.22.13 | 12:51 PM ET

What an entertaining story. We also have trains in the Philippines that travel to the provinces.

Jane Boursaw 01.22.13 | 8:04 PM ET

See, this is why I like to stay firmly planted in Traverse City, Michigan! Great story, though.

bestresearchpaper 01.23.13 | 2:06 AM ET

Written simply and tastefully. Itís pleasant to read. Thank u.

Hang Hieu 01.23.13 | 3:06 AM ET

The picture is very similar to the scene in Vietnam. I think you should one time try to travel by train in Vietnam, the country also has very fantastic scenery and beauty spots. The train will let you go through the jungle to the beach, it is very beautiful.

Arun 01.23.13 | 5:45 AM ET

umm.. there is something wrong here. Indian trains are truly among the slowest, but still, there is no train between Chennai and Bangalore that takes 28 hours. The slowest train takes about 7+ hours…

The schedules are available online as well.

Clay Shivers 01.23.13 | 8:18 PM ET

Hey Arun,

That’s good to hear. Maybe that train has been put out of its misery!

Filmari Nunti 01.24.13 | 12:03 PM ET

Interesting article, should be done more like this, keep up the good work.

Esther 01.25.13 | 11:42 AM ET

I envy you, I love the way you write!

A hug from Madrid :)

Dave Butterworth 01.26.13 | 6:55 AM ET

Great article, nicely written. Yes, a train journey in Vietnam is also slow. I once took one from Saigon to Hanoi and there’s great scenery en route. An enjoyable ride in which part of it curves around the coastline. You can read about it at http://vietnamtrails.wordpress.com

Shamanth Rao 01.26.13 | 8:07 PM ET

Clay(and the editors of Worldhum),

There’s no way you could have done this journey. There’s no train that takes 28 hours from Bangalore to Chennai - a simple Google search can show that.

It doesnt surprise me at all that you havent given any names of places or specifics in this piece.

Editors - I’m amazed you guys havent spotted the clear inconsistencies in this day and age when all information is a click away.

FYI here is more detail about why it’s extremely likely that Clay never went on his journey:
http://www.bywaystar.com/2013/01/worldhum-travelogue-chennai-bangalore-train-indian-railways/

Esha 01.27.13 | 1:53 PM ET

I have to agree with Shamanth Rao’s comment. Although I enjoyed reading the piece because of the writing style, the facts are all wrong. I am really surprised to see this published here.

Jim Benning 01.27.13 | 3:38 PM ET

Shamanth,

Our writer took this trip 20 years ago and these were his impressions looking back on that trip. It’s highly likely the trains have been upgraded since then. (I would hope so, at least.) We’ve edited the story to make it very clear it’s about a journey made 20 years ago.

Anyone planning a trip today should look at current rail schedules or a recently published guidebook or mobile app. This story was never intended for trip-planning purposes.

Jim

Shamanth Rao 01.27.13 | 11:19 PM ET

Hi Jim,

Thank you for your response and for updating the article. Appreciate your intervention here.

Unfortunately, the fact that the writer made the journey 20 years ago does not make the article any more credible. I have myself traveled between Chennai and Bangalore through the late 80s and early 90s - and I can confirm for a fact that no train took 28 hours to make the journey even back then.

As it happens, the Chennai to Bangalore route was one of the earliest routes in India to have electric locomotives run on it - which makes it one of the fastest routes in India, not one of the slowest. (To put that into context, more than 80% of Amtrak railroad routes in America do not have electric locomotives running on them in 2013).

As early as the mid 1960s, trains traveled between Chennai and Bangalore in 5 hours(see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brindavan_Express ), so it’s ridiculous that Clay should claim to have taken 28 hours.

Besides, 28 hours to cover 214 miles would mean an average speed of 7.5 miles an hour - that is about the same pace as a slow jog. That’s a preposterous claim on the writer’s part to presume that any train anywhere could run as slowly as that.

Unless the writer has any other explanation, I’m afraid that it’s clear that he did not make this journey at all. I will look forward to your response.

Best regards,

Shamanth

Ashwin Kumar 01.28.13 | 12:38 AM ET

Chennai to Bangalore distance is 362 km. covering it in 28 hrs would mean an average speed of less than 15 kmph, which is the speed of a train of the hill railways like Ooty,Darjeeling, Matheran etc ! I am disappointed that this article has been published without verifying it. I am sure the writer meant some other journey maybe Bombay-Bangalore or Madras-Bombay

Sunup 01.28.13 | 4:48 AM ET

This travelogue is nothing but a concocted cock and bull story, written by some headstrong American who had disdain towards less fortunate mortals. And it’s crystal plain from the way he has described his so called trip. Leave alone 20 years ago, why, even when trains first started running between Madras and Bangalore, the slowest ones took no more than 7 hours. And no one travels with live chicken in first class coaches! And the guy has such disdain for Beirut! It is indeed known as the Paris of the East. Yes, 20 years ago it might have been a bit war battered and weary but that wouldn’t take away a city’s charm. I am sure the war-ridden Paris of the 40’s wasn’t so pretty either. The poor naive American doesn’t have any general knowledge I guess.

Partha Mandal 01.28.13 | 7:31 AM ET

Interesting…....Seems like a very happening trip but little bit disappointing statements about Indian railways !!!!!! Ya its true that trains in India are very much slow sometimes but not that much worst that travelers think its more better to walk for the destination…:) :)

Prabhu 01.28.13 | 7:35 AM ET

Dear Clay,
What a story, I have thoroughly enjoyed it.. BTW i wonder how you saw CNN in the train 20 years ago. We in India dont have TV in trains still and also at I wonder Cell Phones and Live TV were not there 20 years ago..
Even during the british rule., trains dint crawl this much, and a fact of 28 hrs from Madras to Banglaore is totally atrocious, flaw full and without any evidence.

Either apologise for writing this made up story to gain popularity or I ask the admin/moderator of the site to completely remove it and ban this user.

ramu naidu 01.28.13 | 10:28 AM ET

What sort of high were theses guys on?

sreeram murthy 01.28.13 | 12:26 PM ET

They never travelled o Madras. The entire story is a mere figment of imagination. Deserves to be thrown in the trash.

Even in i1930 Madras Banagalore Passenger train took 12 hours

academia-research.com scam 01.28.13 | 6:33 PM ET

I really enjoyed every bit of it and I’ve marked to ensure that the blog post something new.

Clay Shivers 01.28.13 | 6:38 PM ET

A lot of people are finding it hard to believe that for an entire day twenty years ago I was on a train from Madras to Bangalore. Iíve been told the trains are not that slow. The arguments, I must say, are believable and compelling. I canít explain why my train was so slow. But it was. Otherwise I wouldnít have been able to jump off it, walk along next to it, and climb back on it. It was a frustratingly slow train. Maybe it was an outlier. All I know is I got on the train after lunch, sat on it, watched the sun set, sat on it all through the night, watched the sun come up, and sat on it some more. It was a miserably slow train, and it existed.

If you donít like the story, thatís your right. But I know what I experienced. It happened, and, in time, it has become one of my fondest memories.

Shamanth Rao 01.28.13 | 7:49 PM ET

Clay,

The point isnt about liking your story or not - you have every right to write a story that I do not like(if you re-read my comments, I have no issues with how you write).

My objection has to do with factual correctness and basic journalistic integrity.

I’ve made a list of red flags in your article that I list below. If you did indeed go on this journey, how about you respond to every one of these points?

a. The distance from Chennai to Bangalore is not 100 miles, it’s 214 miles. Surely the distance between two cities cant have been different in 1993. Why did you say distance is 100 miles?

b. No train has departed Chennai at 1pm for Bangalore and reached in 28 hours ever. I’ve traveled multiple times across years - and I havent known of a train that departed at 1pm and reached the next evening. I’ve asked this before - and you havent explained - how did you manage to take a train that didnt exist?

c. You dont seem to be too fond of giving us any specific details about this journey. How about you tell us what was the name of the train you took? (if you didnt know, every train in India has a name - you cant locate or board a train if you dont know its name). While you’re at it, how about you mention the names of some of the places on the way?

d. There is no such thing as first class on Chennai - Bangalore trains. There are air conditioned cars, there are sleeper cars, there are seating cars - but there’s nothing called first class. What kind of coach were you in? Whatever it was, why do you call it first class when it wasnt?

e. In the beginning of the journey, you say Dale clambered up on the bunk bed above to sleep. At night you say you leaned on Dale(who leaned on the window) and Rahim leaned on you. If you had a bunk bed reserved for you, why were you guys sleeping sitting up? Why were the three of you not occupying your respective bunk beds? On every sleeper class train, you have to enter with reservations that entitle you to specific berth numbers. Maybe you were masochistic to forgo your bunk bed - I dont really know.

f. You didnt seem to realize the train would take 28 hours until you were well on your way. Really? That would be common sense for me to ask someone at the ticket counter or inquiry counters as to when the train will reach its destination.

g. You say that passengers ate ‘steaming bowls of rice with daal.’ I ask you - how can rice continue to be steaming a couple of hours into a journey? Wont rice have gone cold in a few hours? No, there were no microwaves in this train. Was this automatic heating of rice something you also ‘experienced’?

h. You claim that there was no ‘snack service’. Well, Chennai to Bangalore trains have an entire car that serves snacks and food - you can see its name written in large friendly letters outside - Pantry Car. You can walk from coach to coach and reach the Pantry Car in every train. Yes, this was even in the stone age that was the 90s.

i. If indeed your journey was an ‘outlier’, why was it that you didnt mention it in the article? Surely the fact that so many rules/policies of the Indian Railways were bent on a single journey should have been noticed by you? Surely a 6 hour journey that took 28 hours has got to be weird? Why would other passengers not make a fuss about it? Wouldnt they just get off and take a bus? Your fellow passengers - or you - dont seem to have had a clue that this was an outlier.

Clay, I respect the fact that you did post a response to everyone’s comments. Unfortunately, nothing that you say establishes that you did go on your journey.

How about you reply to every single one of the contradictions/red flags that I have posted above in this comment?

Best Regards,

Shamanth

Jim 01.28.13 | 11:01 PM ET

Shamanth,

You’ve had ample opportunity to voice your objections to the story. Clay isn’t on trial. If you don’t believe his account, that’s your prerogative.

Readers are free to read all of the comments and decide for themselves what they want to believe.

I think it’s time to move on.

Jim

Shamanth Rao 01.28.13 | 11:44 PM ET

Jim,

I take your comment to mean that you as an editor see nothing wrong in this story - since you continue to keep it on your front page.

While readers are free to make their own judgments, it’s also important as to what your stance as an editor is about a story that’s as dodgy as this.

I would have expected that you would take a stance as to whether you believe the story is true or not - and justify why you think so, given the multiple inconsistencies in Clay’s story. The honorable thing would have been to demand an explanation of Clay - and pull the story off your site if he cannot convincingly explain what’s an impossible journey.

I’ve followed and read WorldHum for a long time now - but if editorial and journalistic integrity is too much to expect of you, I have to say I’m disappointed in you guys.

Jim 01.29.13 | 12:55 AM ET

Shamanth,

I can’t recall details about train rides I took two years ago, let alone two decades ago. And I’m certain I’ve been confused about all sorts of aspects of travel in foreign countries. This is why traveling abroad is so fun and interesting.

If Clay were purporting to be an expert on Indian trains, this would be a different matter. But Clay never suggests he’s an expert on Indian trains. In fact, the whole point of his story is that he didn’t know what he was getting himself into and he was frequently confused during the trip. That’s why we published this story. We can relate to that feeling. We’ve been confounded while traveling abroad.

I appreciate your passion around the topic. I’ve spoken to Clay. We discussed a number of the details about the train ride. I believe he made the trip and that these are his honest impressions looking back on the trip. It’s as simple as that. Our readers are smart. They really are. I have great faith in them. They can read Clay’s account and your comments and make up their own minds.

Arun S 01.29.13 | 1:07 AM ET

Hi,

Shamanth is absolutely correct on all counts. I used to use the Bangalore-Mysore route as a frequent “commuter” route since I had to attend sales calls in Mysore. I used to leave in the morning, reach around lunch time, make my sales calls and hop on board the train in the evening to get back to Bangalore. This was during the period 1993-1997. And none of the trains had chickens or other birds/animals in them.

Editors have to fact-check and if the article does not even pass the basic fact-check test, then it has to be pulled. This story cannot have been possible, since no journey of this sort was possible then.  You can for instance, check the travel site, http://www.indiamike.com which is not run by Indians and confirm.

Kumar 01.29.13 | 1:10 AM ET

@ Desi bhai log : I think the stoned firang got confused b/w Bangalore and Bombay. Twenty eight hrs to Bombay from Chennai is plausible, but the description of the so-called “first class”  compels me to ask him where he scored such strong stuff. Let us all be grateful that he did not find snake-charmers or fakirs performing the rope trick aboard as well.

@ the editor, Clay : Gentlemen, we have a winner here. They do occasionally give out Ignobel Prizes for literature. Do enter the race.

Lakshmi 01.29.13 | 1:15 AM ET

I have been travelling on this sector since the 80s as both Bangalore and Chennai (Madras then) are my hometowns. It DOES not take 28 hours now, nor DID it ever take 28 hours. The slowest train then used to be about 10-12 hours . I am a travel writer as well and it is sad that the facts are completely wrong..Maybe the writer was referring to Mangalore and has got the names mixed up ..

Anita Rao-Kashi 01.29.13 | 1:23 AM ET

The story is entertaining…but that’s all it is. The traveller must have been in a haze, of whatever kind. None of it is true - the distance, the time taken for journey, the class, the chickens… Getting a couple of facts wrong is understandable, but so many of them? And the most glaring of all - Indians love food and there’s no way a journey that lasted that long, if at all it did, could have been done without some food passing by. I should know… I have been doing this journey for at least 35 years!

Venkataraghavan S 01.29.13 | 1:29 AM ET

I’m sorry, Jim, but I’m with Shamanth and the others on this. Nowhere on this page is it mentioned that this is Travel Fiction, or that it’s a fictional/fantastical take on an actual journey. Since it has been portrayed by Clay Shivers and yourself as a honest-to-truth travelogue, with retelling of actual facts and experiences as they happened, I think both of you, as author and editor-publisher, will have to stand by and defend what has been written and published.

I have a problem with what’s on this page because it portrays a picture of India that is plain wrong. Look at the first 4 comments, for example. People with limited knowledge of India will believe that this was the state of affairs 20 years ago when, in reality, it never was. This is as bad as painting a picture of India being nothing more than elephants, beds of nails and snake charmers, with a view of the Taj Mahal from every window in the country.

Hence, I suggest one of two things:
1. That this story be clearly marked as “Fiction” and moved to a “Travel Fiction” page along with an editor’s note; or,
2. That Clay Shivers amend the story to meet basic travelogue quality standards, which includes giving factual details (the name of the train, the time of the year, and some of the other red flags that Shamanth has pointed out in his earlier comment).

If you are unwilling/unable to do either of these suggestions, then I request you to kindly take this story down; it is grossly inaccurate and guilty of misrepresentation.

Archana 01.29.13 | 2:13 AM ET

I would like to agree with the comments here about trains between Bangalore and Chennai. I have travelled between the two cities (one where I lived then, and the other where I had family and was born) since 1985, by every possible train available. I have never had to travel for more than 10-12 hours. The 28 hours seems impossible - even the buses plying between the two did not take that long to get there. I also find it hard to justify a lot of the red flags that Shamanth has raised in the comments before.

Also the comments on the chicken on the floor of the train, and “80 or so people crammed in” is definitely not an experience I have had in sleeper coaches, let alone the so-called non-existent “first-class” that is mentioned here.

All in all, this is definitely not the experience of train travel in India that all of us who have travelled between Bangalore and Chennai even 20 and 25 years back have experienced. I am sure the editor and author can understand why we find it baffling to believe that this happened.

Kavitha Rao 01.29.13 | 2:19 AM ET

Like many people who have commented, I too am a journalist and occasional travel writer. Plenty of people have commented that a train between Bangalore and Madras could not have possibly have taken that long; I suspect Mr Shivers probably took a train between Mumbai and Madras, and confused his names. Hey, who cares as long as it’s “fun and interesting”, right? Either way, food is plentifully available on every Indian train, however short or long the journey.

I’d like to say that this article crams every possible travel cliche into one boring , Orientalist article. Madras belly, brightly coloured Indians, suspicious drinks ( By the way, the juice he gave you would most likely have been perfectly safe Frooti or Godrej juice in tetrapacks; you are more likely to have gotten sick by eating salad at the Taj Hotel), and wonder of wonders, brown heads! Also, what is the EARTHLY POINT of describing a train journey taken 20 years ago unless you go back to see how things have changed? It’s NOT FUN OR INTERESTING.

I’d like to write a similar article on my Boston trip twenty years ago for World Hum describing, oh, I don’t know, the “ghostly whiteness” of the natives, perhaps?

Swar 01.29.13 | 2:31 AM ET

I think there’s only one way to explain this article:

1. The train they took was from Chennai to Mangalore, not Bangalore. (Even that didn’t take 28 hours in the early 90s - it took about 18, and still takes about 16) We can say that the time taken was exaggerated. Also, the West Coast Express leaves around lunch time, which sort of tallies with what is here.

2. They might have bought a first-class tickets—there are first-class compartments on the West Coast that aren’t air-conditioned—but they got into the unreserved compartment for whatever reason. That would explain Clay not having a berth to sleep on.

The easier explanation, of course, is that this is all vastly exaggerated or totally made up.

Revathi 01.29.13 | 3:15 AM ET

Shivers got all the details wrong here right from the distance between Madras and Bangalore. Surely in twenty years the two cities wouldn’t have drifted apart by another 110 miles!
I am a journalist and a frequent traveller between the two cities since 1985. And never any train took beyond 10 hours to cover the 215 miles between the cities.
Also, writing from memory about a journey made 20 years ago is one thing writers never do and editors never publish.  Jim himself has said, ” I canít recall details about train rides I took two years ago, let alone two decades ago. “
It will be appreciable if Shivers and the editor clearly reply why they wanted to publish this without verifying any details including the basic one - the distance! Not good journalism.

Sandeep Menon 01.29.13 | 3:32 AM ET

Entertaining and imaginative! at best ! :)
Since the writers opinion of Beirut was shaped by CNN, I am assuming her experience of India was shaped by Fox news. A Lebanese car salesman in India, chickens in a first class compartment ... lol .. she missed out on the elephants pulling the train and how the driver arrived on a magic carpet !  Am not denying that India can be frustratingly mad and chaotic for a foreign traveler, but this is just total fiction, even 20 years ago!

Sangita 01.29.13 | 3:54 AM ET

To all the commentors who feel the need to reiterate over and over again the possible ‘mistakes’ in the article, I recommend you get over it. Read the piece as a piece of fiction if you must. I dont think it was meant to be hard reporting in any sense of the word and its not any reflection of the otherwise excellent service of the Indian Railways (or a reflection of you as Indians for that matter). Booking a train ticket today is still a bit of a nightmare for us locals - I can only imagine what it would have been like for newbies, 20 years ago. Also if a writer chooses to sprinkle his piece of creative writing with a few exaggerations- please dont feel the need to point out EVERY single point of possible inaccuracy. It speaks more of your thin skin than it does of anything else.

Shamanth Rao 01.29.13 | 4:07 AM ET

Hi Jim,

I appreciate the fact that you took this seriously enough to speak to Clay - and discussed with him details about the train ride.

I also appreciate the fact that you have faith in us readers and believe we are smart. Since so many readers seem to have called Clay’s facts into question, would you be kind enough to share with us what details you discussed with Clay? What made you believe that he actually made the trip? If he did indeed make the trip - and since you trust us readers of yours, I don’t see any reason you should be so reluctant to share these details with us.

My big issue with the piece is not that I expect Clay to be an expert on the Indian Railways - the problem is that the piece is logically inconsistent in multiple places. A man who sleeps on a bunker bed in the afternoon can’t be without one at night. A man cannot travel by a class that doesn’t exist by a train that doesn’t run. The distance between two cities cannot shrink by a hundred miles. A pantry car cannot disappear. A bowl of rice cannot heat itself up. A man ‘may not know what he is getting into’ - but he cannot miss signboards at stations or information printed on tickets that tell him departure and arrival times.

None of the above require any sort of ‘expertise’ on Clay’s part to get right. Clay might have been ‘confounded while traveling abroad,’ but I don’t think I’ve managed to catch a non-existing train while traveling abroad yet.

I respect your statement that you did speak to Clay and discussed the matter with him. Since so many logical inconsistencies remain unresolved - and so many of your readers remain unconvinced, I request you to urge Clay to come clean.

If you are still convinced that Clay’s journey was genuine, I urge you to share with us the details that you did discuss with Clay that enabled you to resolve the above inconsistencies. If Clay’s journey was indeed genuine, I do not see why you should be reluctant to share the details which convinced you that the rest of us are not yet privy to.

Indeed, if you shared this additional information with us, we readers might be able to appreciate Clay’s journey with all its quirks all the better. As I’ve reiterated before, my concern is about basic integrity - and I do hope you will be good enough to clarify where you stand so we readers can continue to trust you.

Sincerely,

Shamanth

Sasnikumar K 01.29.13 | 4:47 AM ET

What an entertaining story ! You see, STORY is the operative word. The writer’s strong point seems to be fiction-writing, not ‘travelouging’.  ‘’ The map showed a hundred miles’‘—Ya, probably right, as an Apache flies , but nothing travelling on the surface of the Earth, surely !  The inconsistencies and inaccuracies are too numerous to repeat. No train took that long thirty years back, I am sue of it. Anybody can refer to the published Time Table of that period. And people travelling from Madras Central to Bangalore with live chicken, in First Class ! Clay, you are a regular riot man, would like to meet you some day. Meanwhile, you promise me to stay off the weed, won’t you ? Thanks for the entertainment, and for acquainting me with the world’s most gullible travel site editor (!)

Sasnikumar K 01.29.13 | 4:55 AM ET

What an entertaining story ! You see, STORY is the operative word. The writer’s legitimate vocation seems to be fiction-writing, not ‘travelouging’.  ‘’ The map showed a hundred miles’‘—Ya, probably right, as an Apache flies , but nothing travelling on the surface of the Earth, surely !  The inconsistencies and inaccuracies are too numerous to repeat. No train took that long thirty years back, I am sue of it. Anybody can refer to the published Time Table of that period. And people travelling from Madras Central to Bangalore with live chicken, in First Class ! Clay, you are a regular riot man, would like to meet you some day. Meanwhile, you promise me to stay off the weed, won’t you ?!! Thanks for the entertainment, and for acquainting me with the world’s most gullible travelsite editor (!)

Kumar 01.29.13 | 5:15 AM ET

@ Desi bhai log : I think the stoned firang got confused b/w Bangalore and Bombay. Twenty eight hrs to Bombay from Chennai is plausible, but the description of the so-called ďfirst classĒ  compels me to ask him where he scored such strong stuff. Let us all be grateful that he did not find snake-charmers or fakirs performing the rope trick aboard as well.

@ the editor, Clay : Gentlemen, we have a winner here. They do give out Ignobel Prizes for literature. Do enter the race.

TAK 01.29.13 | 5:27 AM ET

farce

TAK 01.29.13 | 5:30 AM ET

is this a lame attempt to improve page views? why is a clear work of farce on the front page of a travel blog?

Mahesh Shantaram 01.29.13 | 5:45 AM ET

“Our readers are smart. They really are. I have great faith in them.”

The only reason I don’t dismiss this statement as a platitude is because of the comments above from readers who are taking the time to call out the BS.

Readers aren’t always such a pain in the ass, certainly not when the story in question is “Why We Travel” and the writer is Pico Iyer.

This piece is just about as inaccurate as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. But then, neither are travel stories. And that is all we’re trying to say.

Half-nekkid fakir 01.29.13 | 5:57 AM ET

Excellent piece. However, it belongs in the fiction secton, along with Lance Armstrong’s books. Speaking of which, what *was* Mr Shivers smoking? He was clearly on a trip of his own. A goodly number of impecunious furriners backpacking through India seem to be perpetually on a cannabis-induced high, which might explain the vivid imagination. It’s a pity his travel fantasies remained just that—fantasies.

I’m intrigued by this sentence: ‘Editorís note: This story has been modified slightly since it was originally posted’. What was the ‘modification’? Most trusted sites explain what such edits involve, so why is worldhum above such niceties?

Sangita 01.29.13 | 7:18 AM ET

Samanth, you’ve taken great pains to point out all the possible inconsistencies in the article. You’ve also registered your complaint with the editor (many time over). I think this is where your prerogative ends. The writer and editor are in no way liable to tell you the details of their private conversation or to refute any of your allegations!

I’m from Madras and now live in Bangalore, do the trip every month and know all the details of the logistics of the trip, the really great food on the Shatabdi blah, blah..I still found this article funny and a great piece of creative writing. Were there chickens on his train 20 years ago? Was he going to Bombay and not Bangalore? - This is a man writing about his personal experience - you are free or believe it or not. Get over it and move on I say!

Arvind Shenoy 01.29.13 | 7:38 AM ET

I have to agree with Shamanth on this. This is a plot to defame India and its places. This is not the first time its been done. Racism!!

Rahul 01.29.13 | 7:39 AM ET

This guy is struggling fiction writer. Somebody pls give him work. He was bluff well.

Sangita 01.29.13 | 7:49 AM ET

On a humorous note, to someone on this thread that mentioned carrying elephants in the train in sarcasm - the cost of carrying an elephant on trains today in India is Rs 1500 per head (of elephant), chickens/birds is only Rs 10! Absolutely nothing on restrictions on carrying said animals :)

The India Railways site (scroll all the way down to the end) -

http://www.indianrail.gov.in/luggage_Rule.html

Ladeedah 01.29.13 | 7:55 AM ET

Sangita - If you’ve got anything to take the debate forward, you’re welcome to share it. Show the critics how to appreciate this story for all its literary goodness. If all you have is a personal grudge against Shamanth Rao (who is addressing the author and editor, btw), then take it offline. Thanks.

Sangita 01.29.13 | 8:03 AM ET

Ladeedah - I don’t know Samanth Rao (so bear him no ill will). And I am taking this debate forward -just as you are btw, by putting down my (perfectly valid) comments on this thread. I can address Samanth as a stranger, just as he can address the author/editor. Thank YOU :)

Ze Banaff 01.29.13 | 8:09 AM ET

I have to agree with Shamanth and all the readers questioning the integrity of this piece. Clay and Jim, and a number of the readers here may be urging the likes of us to “move on” and “get over it”, but let me break this down.
I’m a travel writer. Not a particularly experienced one. I’ve been in the industry a couple of years. I have no journalistic education, but it doesn’t take a degree to realise that integrity is key to journalism. Especially travel journalism, when your voice is influencing thousands of readers and their opinion of not just a train track, but a people, and an entire country. And there’s precious little of that integrity to be found in the space above this comments section.
All this story does is lace stereotypes, factual inaccuracies, and “recollections” to form a travelogue (whether that’s the right term is debatable) that fundamentally lacks any spine.
It’s well written, I’ll give you that, but then so are all of Stephen King’s novels.

Sasnikumar K 01.29.13 | 8:22 AM ET

I am with Clay here. I have no reason to disbelieve that he took the trip (pun intended). He is pretty sure of his originating station and destination. On the way, he appears to have taken a slight diversion, taking in the Philippines, then onto Vietnam, and travelling briefly on the train to Mandalay before returning to India. That it all happened within 28 hrs is not of much consequence, when we know that the human mind has the capability to be at several places at the same time !
  But serious travellers may not like to be treated to farcical presentations of journeys. A separate section dedicated to creative writing would be a good idea. One cannot trifle with facts as one can do with one’s personal opinions. For example, which Time Table ever showed a train taking 28hrs between these two cities ? And which map ever showed a distance of a hundred miles between them ? Although an US educated Lebanese guy working as a car salesman in India 20 years ago, and for that reason is a frequent traveller between these cities, is very unlikely, though not totally impossible. Anyway I think what can be said about this episode has been said, and nobody is under any compulsion to visit these sites. But correcting a wrong impression by putting forth the facts, as Shamanth has done, might be informative for genuine travellers.

Ze Banaff 01.29.13 | 8:31 AM ET

The most poetic thing about this page, though, is that it lists THIS (http://www.worldhum.com/travel-blog/item/has-technology-killed-the-tall-travel-tale-20130106/ ) as a related story. Coincidence? :)

Lakshmi 01.29.13 | 9:47 AM ET

My biggest issue with this post is that it paints such a false image of India and unfortunately this is what is believed to be India..now or 20 years ago..goes with the stereotypes of snake charmers and magic potions ..and I thought World Hum is one of those credible sites on travel

Ashwin Kumar 01.29.13 | 10:15 AM ET

There is nothing wrong with this article if is in the fiction section. But in the travellogue section as pointed out by many people, particularly Shamanth Rao (excellent initiative Shamanth !!) there are too many inaccuracies so it is not credible. I request the editor to either ask the author to come up with the details and correct the mistakes or transfer this article to the fiction section.

Ashwin Kumar 01.29.13 | 10:26 AM ET

When foreigners who have never heard of Indian Railways before read this article, they will get a completely wrong and negative picture of how India was. So it is for this reason that this article either needs to be corrected or moved to the fiction section ASAP

Rica 01.29.13 | 11:13 AM ET

Clay, I still think that this is an amusing story :)

Suman Kumar 01.29.13 | 11:55 PM ET

Nice story. I had a similar experience in the USA too. I took a train, pulled by horses, from Bristol CT to NYC. It was 15 years back I think. One white guy came to me and stared at me for a while and walked back to his seat. Outside, in the prairies, I saw Indians being chased by the US Army. I think we took about 37 hours to reach NYC. Upon reaching the Central, I took the subway to go to Jackson Heights to eat my masala dosa. I love traveling.

Half-nekkid fakir 01.30.13 | 2:48 AM ET

Respected sir, I am a aspiring travelogue writer. I trust you will accept and honorably publish my account of a trip I made to the US around the same time Mr Clay was travelling from Madras to Bangalore. Unlike Mr Clay I have upturned every stone to fill in complete details of my trip. I am landing in New York City one sultry morning in December with my pal Thiruvenkatasamy Soundararajan. We are have a tough time finding a place that serve curd-rice, so we withdraw our entire life’s savings from Lord Krishna Bank in Manhattan’s 18th street and buy a paneer sandwich (by two) and a cutting chai at McDonalds. Then we are have a couple of hours to kill, so we go to Times Square to watch Linda Goodman in Deep Throat and nearly choked on our paneer sandwiches. Soon it was time to hail a cab to go to JFK railway station but the bleddy sardarji driver took us the long way round but we still fooled him because though we paid thrice as much we got a FREE sightseeing tour of Bronx, Brooklyn and Hoboken. Our Amkette train was only half an hour late and we got into our pulldown compartment. The airhostess was very hospitable and we managed to drink three glasses of 7-Up. But after my third glass I began to feel a little bit dizzy so I went to lay down in my pulldown berth. One TTE came and tried to ejaculate us from the compartment thinking we were ticketless peoples but I flashed him my high caste thread and he left us alone after that. I ordered my dinner when we passed Los Angeles and it was served in my seat. By next day afternoon we had pulled into Texas where my co-brother was waiting for us at the station. Unlike Mr Clay I was very happy with my experience. Thus concludes my once-in-a-lifetime trip of the united nations. I beg and hope you will find it suitable for acceptance in your esteemed publication.

Ladeedah 01.30.13 | 3:33 AM ET

ROTFL!!! Now *that* might actually win Worldhohum some genuine appreciation. And it does what travel writing shoudl do - promote global understanding :)

On a somewhat tangential note… EVERYBODY JUST SAY NO TO DRUGS!!!

sandeep 01.30.13 | 6:45 AM ET

“Feet of Clay” just hit a completely new dimension.

Alan A 01.30.13 | 6:50 AM ET

Jim,

As I read this sterling article I am at a loss as to what genre of writing it falls into. Fiction seems too tame, a travelogue seems too fantastic, so I will settle for the nearest style: racist libel.

As a reader, I am ashamed that World Hum would allow the publication of such xenophobic, misinformed, racist, nonfactual articles. It isn’t funny, it isn’t creative and most of all, it offends more than it entertains. Perhaps you are trying to spread the message of world hate; or were some of your jobs outsourced to India? Whatever the case, I think you need to review the name of this site - Racist American Hum comes to mind.

For the record, I register a formal protest against this submission and request that you take this disgusting piece of yellow journalism or fiction off your website.

Kind Regards,
Alan

abhinav 01.30.13 | 7:13 AM ET

Clay ! With you bro. I had the same experience, this one time in ‘murica. Was travelling from California to Boston distance of hardly more than my hand on the map. I was on my way to catch the steamer from Boston to the old world so that I could cash in all the gold I had panned in the valley. Must have been about .. oh. 20 years .. or 45 days back. I forget which. And also not sure if it was California. All I remember is all the super-fit bleached blondes that the guys wearing pointing white sheets had as secretaries. NEWAYZ - I decided to take the scenic route with a plane instead of the far more efficient teleporter that Spock had loaned me.

Got onto the flight, and was greeted by the now familiar but yet strange american custom of probing a stranger’s anus before embarking on any journey. Later I found out that this is an old native american custom for good luck.

I insisted on flying Club class, where naked nubile virgins would anoint me with eucalyptus oil and massage me during the journey, but instead discovered that I would be seated between 2 very obese and loud gentlemen from Kansas.

Well - if not comfort, I thought conversation should be lively. We then discussed world politics but that didn’t last very long as they both agreed that Canada wuz good and Mexicans wuz bad.

My club class meal was thrown in my general direction by the seventy year old crone with an instructions to enjoy. I inquired if the meal was vegetarian and prepared by brahmins no more than 4 hours ago. she responded by pulling out the meat from between the buns (ha ha -no no not what you think) and I was left with two crusts and a bit of cheese. Luckily I had just come from Victorian England, so this wasn’t a problem for me.

Although the flight was a “direct” one, it wasn’t non-stop. So about 13 hours later I found myself in Texas on the way to Boston.

and then I came to and realized that i shouldn’t be smoking crack.

Mr. Mackey 01.30.13 | 7:22 AM ET

Drugs are bad, mmm-kay? Have you been smoking mari-joo-aanaa, Clay? Drugs are bad, mmm-kay?

Kristy of Migration Expert 01.31.13 | 9:54 PM ET

We also have that kind of train before that runs very, very slow and dirty but now the government implemented a new system that they bought new trains to use to make the transportation in the railroad better.  Check this website http://www.migrationexpert.com/visa_us/

WMSHARPJR 02.01.13 | 1:53 AM ET

Some people have way too much time on their hands…

ChangeUserNameHere 02.01.13 | 3:16 AM ET

Super easy for the same guy to change his user name and troll on this site. Nastiness all over the place.

Just Another Travel Writer 02.01.13 | 11:09 AM ET

Having never been to India, I have no idea about the facts here. But as a travel writer and a longtime World Hum admirer, I’m really troubled by your response to what seems like legitimate questions being raised by commenters.

No, travel writing isn’t exactly the Watergate investigation, but the truth does matter. And the editor’s responses here struck me, frankly, as bizarrely disinterested in getting things right.

This, for example: “This story was never intended for trip-planning purposes.”

What an oddly dismissive reaction to real concerns! But also, why so snarky and condescending? None of the commenters were suggesting the story be used as a guidebook. But are service writers the only ones that should bother to get facts straight?

“Clay isnít on trial. If you donít believe his account, thatís your prerogative. Readers are free to read all of the comments and decide for themselves what they want to believe. I think itís time to move on.”

Clay isn’t on trial? Really?! It’s suggested that one of your writers fabricated a story (in whole or in part), by a fellow journalist with serious complaints, and your response is to attack the messenger by suggesting she’s somehow hysterical or acting out of personal “prerogative.”

Maybe I’m missing something and there is something personal here. But…uh…huh?

And then this: “I canít recall details about train rides I took two years ago, let alone two decades ago.”

Good god. What a horrifying thing to hear from an editor. Of course there are events one doesn’t remember clearly. But most writers would have the good sense not write an entire story about them.  Or, if the tale was really worthy (this one wasn’t, in my opinion), at least make it incredibly clear in that the memories are fuzzy.

Hey, World Hum, you’re great. We love you. But you handled this badly. Get it together.

India Tours 02.02.13 | 7:24 AM ET

InterestingÖ....Seems like you had a wonderful vacation in south India. Its true that trains in India are not picking pace, as compared to bullet trains in world. But still, it is the largest medium of transport used by not only Indians but also from world travelers to explore majestic destinations.

Cheers,
India tours

Debbarman Abhishek 02.03.13 | 12:33 AM ET

It is an entertaining story but highly fictional as the comments below clearly show.

Also a good thing that the editor has looked into this article and comments but it also highly appalling that he chose to overlook all the facts provided here by the readers and staunchly support the author. While it is acceptable to support your staff during such incidents, but such disregard for facts only damages the credibility of worldhum. For an internet website meant for travelogues this story seems like a work of fiction and definitely lowers this site to a parody. For me such an incident only means in the future I will not look here for any meaningful details for my travels anywhere. I would highly condemn such unprofessional behavior by the editing staff.

Antriksh 02.03.13 | 12:39 AM ET

Haha very enchanting! I have always loved abstract and fiction writing.
Impressive.

Venkat 02.03.13 | 1:06 AM ET

Hi Clay

I’m sure you got the stations wrong. Even if we assume that the story is 20 years old there is no way that the journey would take 28 hours. There are two possibilities I see. Either there has been an accident enroute and hence the train stopped at some station for long enough. Alternately you got the start and end stations wrong.

Also your mention of first class being over crowded is a great imagination. May be you purchased a first class ticket and boarded a general compartment which is meant for last minute unreserved travellers. Your description of the compartment exactly fits that.

In all your future travels in India please be aware of the information desk. Also the people in India are very helpful and can guide you to board proper train and proper compartment so that you can travel more comfortably.

Satya 02.03.13 | 2:31 AM ET

Hi Clay!

Please display the courage to say you erred in thinking that all that you read about India (written 200 years back) was true; as true as the early seamen having romanced mermaids.  You believed that and tried to make up a story, probably knowing only the names of two indian cities.  Your article lacks not only truth but the honesty and integrity of a travel writer.  Thank God, you didnot say you were travelling from Islamabad to Dhaka thinking they too were Indian cities.  I say this because I am convinced you didnot undertake this trip.  In fact I am pretty sure you have never visited India as the picture you paint is that painted by the early travellers from the westerner world who could get away with any fictitious piece of writing since they could be fairly sure that there would no one travelling to the part of the world they wrote about.  Nice article in the wrong age!!

Dear Editor,
We love the site and please maintain its credibility.

INDIAN 02.03.13 | 10:56 AM ET

Jim:
Nice that you discussed the article with the writer and were convinced “that he made the trip and that these are his honest impressions looking back on the trip.”
However to silence your critics also for them to be as convinced as you are, I suggest that you also confirm the facts for yourself.
The train closest to the writers description, Bangalore Express starts from Madras at 1:35 PM and reaches Bangalore at 8:05 PM in the evening (sorry not the next evening-it reachesthe same evening). It of course is the longest running train (6and a half hours and not 28 hours). This may be taking 28 hours to complete the journey if not 20 years then 100 years back. You can surely verify the same by writing a mail to the General Manager, Southern Railways, Chennai at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). I am sure he will have one his assistants help you with the facts like how many hours did this train take to complete the journey in late 20th century or mid 20th century or late 19th century.
Your data of facts shall definetly silence all your critics.
You also are sure that the “readers are smart. They really are. I have great faith in them. They can read Clayís account and your comments and make up their own minds.” Truly after you made this remark not 1 person who has not visited these parts or known them, has commented any more.
Sure, they have made up their minds.

ChangeUserNameHere 02.03.13 | 3:30 PM ET

Hi, I’m from B’lore and whatever the flaws are in this article, the vitriol flowing in the comments section is unprecedented. The only thing the editor should do is get a stronged moderator for the comments section. Also make sure that ppl cannot change their user names while posting. Seriously sick of the trolling. It reflects much worse on our country than anything in the article ever could.
And please don’t feel bullied into explaining anything in the article- it reads just fine.

ChangeUserNameHere's Mom 02.03.13 | 4:35 PM ET

Listen kid… I’m from the moon and I wanna ask - why are you so concerned about user’s changing names? Did you discover this loophole all by yourself, you IIT grad? It seems like the critics have raised some valid points, imho. There is a bit of bullying, yeah thas a shame, but defly some valid arguments as to why the editor might wanna do a rethink. Just try to look over the trolling, as you call it. Are you trying to create a good impression of our beloved country (toot toooot) or do you actually have an argument? Those who started this thread have moved on. There are new folks whore gonna land here every day and they’re gonna say what they feel. That’s how the internet works darling.

Jade 02.03.13 | 5:03 PM ET

This story was so good I have to share it, especially with my English teachers. A lesson from this story is a picture is not what it seems. The train is ridiculously slow yes, but I am sure it is an experience that’s worth remembering.

ChangeUserNameHere 02.03.13 | 9:26 PM ET

Listen Mom, it wouldn’t matter if you changed your name a billion times over- my problem is that a)you’re just such a biyotch and b) you’ve already repeated yourself countless number of times already. Yes, we get it now! Your sarcasm and ‘genius’ avatars were only funny the 1st couple of times and are now growing very old. Get over it mom, please!
Yours truly, loving bundle of joy..

ChangeUserNameHere 02.03.13 | 10:44 PM ET

Oh, and thanks for the lessons on the Internet. Here I was thinking it was a safe and warm place. I did NOT however think that everyone that wrote an article/ blog/ anything that could have any factual errors was personally answerable to Me. Just tweet about it some more, write another big blogpost, drink some tea and you’ll automatically start feeling better.

Teresa Jens 02.04.13 | 4:35 AM ET

Amazing post. Love your writing style. Wish I had those skills to.

Hugs from Bulgaria :)

Jeremiah Bunyan 02.06.13 | 2:28 AM ET

Well guys there is no use arguing with any of these people. If they want to publish some rubbish then let them. I’ll admit I as an Indian don’t like India so much because of it’s backwardness. Just because our country is still developing doesn’t mean that we were even slower in the 80’s but I can tell you for sure that it can never take 28 hours from Chennai to Bangalore. My grandfather worked in Chennai and Hubli as a A grade driver and he never mentioned anything of this sort. The slowest goods train won’t take so long. Clay should specify the route atleast. Fiction is one thing but this doesn’t seem like fiction?? Even if by chance there was some major delay and the train was routed via other places it still wouldn’t take 28 hours.  As far as we can all see Clay, as much as I inspire your writing style, your story is just a waste when there is nothing true about it. If you say you undertook that trip then hey-ho we all set foot or Mars. If you can post something as silly as this on an a site as renowned as this then well you have to accept correction. You can’t argue with people whose families worked on the railways in that very same region and on that same sector. For God sake get your facts straight Clay. It’s a pity that the editors support you even though they have something called the INTERNET at their disposal.

Travel India 02.07.13 | 1:17 AM ET

Bangalore is no doubt a magical city with many places to explore. Your train travel exposed a lot about the Indian Railways and its mechanism. World travelers opting best options such as road journey, train journey and other core mediums to explore India tourism, because its the best way to know this fabulous country better.

Regards,
Travel Packages India

Ashwin Kumar 02.09.13 | 3:34 PM ET

I cannot believe that people are truly so naive as to take this fantasy story from Mr.Clay as facts to form a belief that there was indeed a train that took 28 hours from Chennai to Bangalore and that too the distance is 160 km and not 362 km. As pointed out by quite a few people, even the slowest goods train would take much less time. I am making another request to the editor to move this into the fiction section or ask the author to correct the so many errors or remove it altogether, failing which it should be treated as compromise of ethics.

Dave 02.10.13 | 10:47 AM ET

I thought Worldhum prides itself on being renowned for publishing the best writing and the most travel-authentic literature. Given the amount of negative comments on this thread concerning this story, I’m not so sure. It seems that the editor is over-preferential about what he wants to publish as long as the writing is good.

Rob 02.10.13 | 1:49 PM ET

Looks like the LA Times is making up stories about slow trains in India, too. When will it end?

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/31/world/la-fg-india-fog-20130201

Sunup 02.11.13 | 12:31 AM ET

Rob, I went through the article provided in that LA Times link. Unlike Clay’s article, this piece is a genuine article and there is nothing cooked up in that. The North Indian fog has indeed played havoc with train and flight schedules. And yes, 95% of our train squat toilets are indeed foul smelling. I can completely picture whatever LA Times has published and it’s true to the core. This is how a genuine travelogue should be—the train name is genuine,  the source and destinations match, the class of travel and descriptions match, and the entire descriptions match with a typical Indian railway journey.

deepa sharma 02.12.13 | 3:46 AM ET

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Ashwin Kumar 02.19.13 | 4:59 PM ET

It seems to me, as suggested by a few people, that Mr.Clay is abusing his freedom by coming under pseudo-names and posting different comments that support his ridiculous travelogue that can at best be a piece of fiction.

spencerid 02.22.13 | 7:44 AM ET

nice article

andy j 02.26.13 | 12:35 PM ET

Great article makes surprising reading.

Sachin 02.27.13 | 8:33 AM ET

For a distance of more than 350 Km, a passenger train generally takes around 10-12 hours in India even now. 20 years ago it could have been 15. Assuming that the passing priority of that train was the lowest and a few hiccups could add another 4-5 hours to the journey. That makes it a total of around 20 hours. To make the story more compelling the author took the liberty of adding few more hours, whats wrong in that. The story is well written and symbolically depicts the sorry state of the Indian railways. Good work, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Lori of Torontonicity 03.02.13 | 4:57 PM ET

Well, that is indeed a charming story and provides a vivid picture of India albeit 20 years ago! I’m sure things have changed dramatically since then.

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