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Monday, August 14, 2017

Travelling Cattle Class




I remember as a child, I travelled to most of the destinations in ordinary second class in trains or buses whenever we went to our native place or for a holiday. The joy of meeting new people while travelling, sharing food with them, jokes and even playing cards on the way, never let monotony creep in. As I grew up and joined the Navy, I got a taste of being upgraded to Ist class and AC sleeper class. The change was definitely welcome, but the co passengers were more snooty and the discussions were hardly meaningful. Most people purchased the food from the railway catering except for some die hard lovers of home food who still carried their tiffins but seldom shared with anyone!

During the years in the Navy, I had been bitten by the travel bug so everytime it was impossible to travel by first class, so I fell back to my old ways to remain rooted as well as economical. I heard of the 'cattle class' and had a taste of it too! This was in no way in a disparaging manner, but at times in the literal sense. I remember I boarded a local bus for travel from Pithoragarh to Dharchula. The bus was very rickety, and every time the driver changed the gears it seemed that the engine will fall off! The scenic beauty that I was enjoying was interrupted by a frantic wave of a shepherd.The bus braked to a stop and lo and behold... about a dozen sheep also boarded the bus! This was unbelievable as I had never travelled with cattle.May be the learned Dr Shashi Tharoor who many years later infamously tweeted about ' Indians travelling cattle class' never would have realized that this was for real! He has perhaps only seen people being stuffed in the buses and trains like a pack of sardines or the trains bound to Bihar and East UP having more passengers sitting on the roof of the train than inside a compartment. I have seen many such sights where people prefer to get on the bus or train from a window than using the gate!I have travelled within UP and even in southern parts of the country where there is a literal mayhem to board a bus! Too many people and too few buses or trains are the only reason, and the situation seems to aggravate with each passing year.

There are however a few gems of people who live by personal example. The learned Mrs Sudha Murthy wife of Mr Narayan Murthy is an epitome of simplicity. Once she was travelling from Heathrow in London to Bengaluru and was dressed in a simple cotton sari and waiting in the business class queue, chatting with an elderly couple in Kannada! Two smartly attired women walked up to her and informed her that she was in a wrong place and should go to the economy class and wait there. On enquiring why she should leave, the women continued that the business class was three times more expensive and other privileges which economy class was not entitled to! The conversation was interrupted by a boarding announcement and Ms Murthy started walking towards the flight. A stewardess recognised her and paid compliments for seeing her again in a matter of one week and ushered her to the business class. She turned back and saw that the two smarty pants had now a glum look on their faces and looked crest fallen! Ms Murthy told them that ' they had no business to tell her to leave as they did not have any authority'!

Warren Buffet, the wealthy owner of Berkshire Hathway drives his own car, lives in his 3 bedroom flat bought more than 50 years ago, and never flies on a private jet.Among other celebrities who prefer travelling economy class include Angelina Jolie, Kim Kardashian, and Jessica Alba! We, unfortunately, associate a lot of false pride in showing off what little we possess in comparison to those who can well afford but do not like exhibitionism. I learnt the lesson early when I joined the corporate world. I was flying for a business meeting from Tel-Aviv to Eilat in Israel. My co-passenger was the CEO of my company who had a short chat with me on the way! He told me that many engineers who had spent just two years in the company often would travel by business class as they accumulated more miles than him to be upgraded! Of course, I knew he was being humble but then rarely one gets to see people living life with a personal example worth emulation.

PS- Images were taken while I was in Patna

10 comments:

  1. I would love to travel with cattle, they are better than some humans I would say, seriously, just by traveling in a business class for 3 hours makes some people think they are above one and all! How sad.

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    1. Ha ha hat was a nice one! So agree with your observations Padmaja!

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  2. I know what you mean. Cattle class was not disparaging at all. I know many moneyed folks who travel by Economy even when they can afford to travel business class.

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    1. As long as one does things without trying to be an exhibitionist, I guess it is OK!

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  3. Business class has flatback, more leg space, meals served in proper dinnerware, shorter queues at the airport for immigration and a toilet that's mostly clean.

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    1. Undoubtedly, the business class treats well and your observations are perfectly valid, Purba!

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  4. Blogging upgraded my travels but I do identify with the cattle class, always!

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  5. Rahul
    What a great travel blog that each and every one of us can identify with ( unless we were the kind who were born with a silver spoon). Traveling 'cattle class' teaches us to share space with others. A good example of that is traveling in Mumbai locals where a fourth or fifth person who ask us to squeeze ourselves to make room for a tiny part of their bottom side to get some seat!! Great work Rahul

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    1. Thank you for reading! Yes have travelled enough on locals in Mumbai and one can write a post on this:)

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