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Live and Express


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My Tryst With Pune – 1

3:30 AM – 5:00 AM

On a wet Thursday early morning, my flight to Pune from Bengaluru landed like ‘Bump-bump…bump….’ like an auto navigating a Bengaluru speed-breaker, as my inner self screamed ‘Nahinnnnnnnn…‘ like a Hindi movie heroine chased by the villain. I still remember my first international flight from Mumbai to Frankfurt (Thank you Delta!), which landed in Frankfurt like a finger on butter. Sigh….How do they even give flying license to these ‘Yahaan ka local temperature hai Pacheezz degree Centigrade’ kids?

My Ola cab driver was polite and very human. I used my Hindi skills to navigate him through the roads, At the end of the ride, the driver was reluctant to press the back button twice in the app. to get to the ‘end the ride’ screen. When I asked him to, he said ‘app bandh ho jayegee’. I said ‘Bhaiyaa, aap vo nahin karenge tho kithna paisa kaise pathaa hogaa’. He blinked and agreed to tap the back button twice to get to the swipe button.

Finally there I was, at 4:00 am in front of a heavily locked Secured Hostel Base Facility (I should not see FBI/CIA themed Hollywood movies often). Thanks to the organizer, who didn’t leave a phone number to call the manager, I was stranded with my suitcase, my backpack and my sweet self in a foreign town, surrounded by 4 dogs.

The dogs immediately accepted me as part of their tribe (at least as part of THAT part of the street tribe), didn’t make even a bit of a noise, and start sleeping as though nothing happened.  I sat down on the platform, and started browsing the very useful Facebook posts that my ‘friends’ had posted, and there comes this dog from the OTHER part of the street, which wants to re-establish the boundaries using ME as a Trump card.

Then starts this war between the two brotherhoods, which almost woke up that section of the town, with me standing watching in amusement. You should see to believe how the ‘home’ tribe was trying to protect me from foreign aggression with fiery fury!  Finally, the foreign army backtracked and I was able to continue my world’s important work with spurious interruptions.

(To be followed)

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The Bengaluru-Coimbatore Uday Express (Train no. 22665)

On June 10th, Indian Railways has introduced the Bengularu-Coimbatore Uday Express, which starts at around 2:15 PM in Bengaluru, and reaches Coimbatore at 9 pm. This is a double-decker AC coaches train, with a highly equipped WAP 7i electric engine, that takes the Tiruppatur route to reach Salem. The train no. is 22665.

There has been a lot of excitement among the railways community because they consider it as an ‘advanced’ train, may be because of the fact that it is fitted with a 7i engine, and has AC coaches.

To me, as a passenger, the double-decker AC coach is a disappointment as it is too cramped, and the leg space is too little. I have experienced this with the Bangalore-Chennai double-decker. Also, the air-conditioning is too unfriendly, and it gets really cold. One won’t be able to sit in the coach for more than 4 hours. Thus, these AC coaches are suitable for travel only upto 4 hours while sitting, say from Bangalore to Salem.

The travel time between Bangalore and Coimbatore is usually 6.5 hours, and anything above 6 hours is not suitable for a sitting train, and should be made as a sleeper train. But, the Uday express, as of now, takes 7 hours to reach Coimbatore, so it would be very inconvenient for the passengers. The train reaches Tiruppur at 7:40 PM, but it then reaches Coimbatore only at 9:00 PM, which is 1 hour and 20 minutes in between, but the usual express train travel between Tiruppur and Coimbatore is only 40 minutes. When asked about this, they say that the section between Tiruppur and Coimbatore is too crowded at that time, so the train might stop in some loops to let the other trains pass.

This is a very inefficient usage of the highly capable 7i engine – to stop in loops for around 40 minutes. Also, the passengers inside the train would be anxious to reach Coimbatore, having crossed Tiruppur, but they have to wait for another 40 minutes in signals!

I would suggest that the Railways relook at the itinerary and reduce the travel time. Probably the train can be made as non-stop, or only with one stop (say, Salem), and given very high priority over other trains, so that it does not stop in any loops or signals. This will make an efficient use of the high-power engine.

There is significant distance between Bangalore and Coimbatore (around 418 kms), and it is not suitable for a sitting train. What is required between Bangalore and Coimbatore are two more sleeper trains. Kanyakumari Island express reaches Coimbatore at an unholy hour of 3:15 AM. Mumbai Kurla – Coimbatore express is always late to reach Bangalore and unreliable. Thus, two more sleeper trains that start around 10 PM and 10:30 PM are required from Bangalore.

It’s great to have the latest technology engine and AC coaches, but if the passengers are not satisfied with the travel time and the comfort of the coach, it would be a waste.

We will have to wait and see the popularity of Uday express. Currently around 880 seats are being offered in this train, and we will watch how much of them get filled every day.

As such, if there is another option like taking a Airavat bus from Bangalore, one would prefer that, rather than taking this train.

Will the Railways take notice and take relevant steps?


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#IRCTC woes of #India #Railways

Every grand stuff has a not-so-grand thing.

In case of Indian Railways, it’s the IRCTC’s online web-site for reservations & catering.

As a traveller and a techie, I am just amazed by the sheer negligence of the IRCTC authorities of how a simple thing of handling user traffic in their website has been ignored careless – leading to loss of revenue and discomfort of the passengers.

Recently, there was a talk in Twitter that Indian Railways passenger information is a great #BigData opportunity. The people who started the discussion were awe-ing about the new dynamic fare system introduced in some of the trains. Big Deal? Well, if I am not able to login to IRCTC web-site, what’s the point in even discussing about the features at the web-site?  Even during non-tatkal hours, I get communication failure many times.

It’s a simple matter of introducing cloud to the infrastructure. There was a time when server redundancy & traffic optimization was required.  Extra servers had to be installed, so that they can all share the traffic between them. This required buying additional servers, provisioning them, and writing the software logic to balance the user traffic.

With the advent of cloud computing, server redundancy has been moved to the cloud service provider. All IRCTC needs to do is to sign a service level agreement with the cloud service provider that the service need to handle whatever be the volume of traffic at any hour – the cloud infrastructure would do that by dynamically handling the requests with the servers at THEIR end – instead of IRCTC needing to invest in the physical servers. This way, capital investment is avoided – especially makes sense where in today’s scenario the server features getting outdated in 6 months because of bulkier hard disks, more powerful memory and processing power occupying lesser space.

Instead of investing in cloud service, IRCTC has recently launched a light-weight application, which will be launched during tatkal hours. Well, it’s a stop-gap quick-fix arrangement, but, it will also fail due to the ever-increasing demand of incoming user traffic. Also, who is going to handle the non-tatkal hours traffic which is also significant after 7:00 PM IST ?

I also saw a funny thing – one cannot register an ID between 7:00 AM and 11:00 AM. Why is this?

To summarize, I think the technical knowledge of IRCTC technical staff who are handling the web-site is outdated, and probably 10 years old. I don’t know if IRCTC has outsourced the technical part to a software service provider, but if this is the case, the service provider is doing a pathetic job, and need to replace their architects and engineers who are working on the IRCTC part – to upgrade to new software solutions which can handle the real time situations.

I told my friend – if I have to ever curse someone, I would say that their life be dragging for ever like an IRCTC user session! Hopefully, IRCTC will fix their web-site, and get out of the situation of being a laughing stock and a subject of online jokes in Facebook & other social networking sites.


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And so he starts thinking…

It was a hot day in mid March. I was travelling in a train from Bangalore to Chennai.

I was in a non-AC reserved compartment. I take books with me to kill time, but books also fail me at times, as it gets too boring to sit at a place for long.  Though I stare out and let my thoughts wander – and it usually lets the time fly away – I sometimes still feel bored.

I have always thought about the no. of people travelling in the Bangalore-Chennai sector, especially between Vaniyambadi and Chennai. It’s a whole lot. In spite of 7 trains a day, even the reserved compartments are full of standing people who  have not reserved their seats.  I see people cursing those who travel unreserved in reserved compartments, and the ticket inspector. But what they miss out is – how many people can the ticket inspector drive away from the reserved compartments, and for how many days?  It’s simply not possible. Also, the problem is not of irresponsibility, but of demand. It takes half the time and money to travel in train than in the buses, and hence people just hop-in into the reserved compartments and travel.

I have had my share of arguments and discussions with RTSO (the research wing that designs the railway compartments). I have argued with them that they should design non-AC double-decker coaches, so that common man can travel in them and the demand can be met.  They can’t keep adding coaches to the trains, as already 6 to 7 coaches of a train like Lalbagh stand outside the platform in a station like Arakkonam. Their answer is that they can’t increase the height of the coaches because they have to re-adjust the electric poles that supply power to the engine, so they are lowering the ground level of the compartment, in which case, dust will come in if the coach has open windows, and hence they can design only AC coaches! Makes sense. So, the railways are doing their bit. So, where is the problem?

I went towards a door to stand and gaze out, and there’s this person who was sitting near the door. We start talking about various things. He says he is from Ambur and works in a petrol supply company. I bring up the crowd issue, and how people just hop in the trains in whatever compartments they could find nearby. He agrees it’s a problem, but says he does that all the time as it’s convenient for him.

I ask him, ‘But you know, how can railways cater for such a huge crowd? Not just railways, we need to provide food, water, electricity, land, jobs etc to all the people. So, why give birth more and more, while there are existing children which need caring and shelter?’. He winces. Probably the background and culture he is coming from is for more and more babies, or against adoption. But he sees the point. He laments ‘Who thinks about all those?’. But then I can see a change in his attitude. I am sure I had made him think. I’m happy that I happened to stumble upon one person who happens to live where there’s dense population, and made him think too.

Many more minds to think. Adoption could be a cure to our population disease. Especially in cities and towns where it is feasible.  If we need to experience being a parent for a loved one, why not adopt ?

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