Cutlets on Brindavan Express

Posted on July 25, 2014


On July 25, 2014, the Madras-Bangalore-Madras Brindavan Superfast Express departed Madras Central without its famous pantry car. The prestige of this train, which is in its 50th year of service, has now been left to rot. There is nothing golden here, just that sentiment and tradition has been thrown out of the window by Southern Railway from its headquarters right next to Central.

Brindavan Express, the most preferred connection between the two state capitals has been subject to constant degrading ever since the Double Decker AC Express was introduced. The ergonomically failing design and constant fault in the air-conditioning always meant that Brindavan will have no competition. Besides, two generations of travellers have reveled in Brindavan’s scorching speed. When introduced, the train covered the 360km distance in five hours flat with just two stops at Katpadi and Jolarpet. It later became five and a half hours, and now it currently takes six hours and ten minutes with 10 halts in between, some due to political pressure.

But, to promote the Double Decker, Brindavan was stripped of its premium timing, its two AC coaches and now the pantry car.

From the days the train had its own green livery coaches and crowd gathering to see the engine being coupled to the rake. I have heard so many stories, and I have my own too.

I used to frequently take Brindavan to Katpadi, and then proceed to a village in Vellore district where I was involved in a social service project during graduation (2007-10).

I preferred Brindavan due its 0710 (?) departure or else I had to get up earlier and catch Kovai Superfast which leaves Central at 0615. While I could sneak into Kovai’s reserved compartments to find an empty seat, it was hardly the case with Brindavan.

Brindavan Express boasted of one of the best pantries in the Indian Railways network. Just as the train left the service starts. Without a doubt, copious amounts of tea will be consumed before the aroma of the masala dosa filled the compartment. Bread omlette was the other favourite, but nothing could ever come close to the cutlets which were on offer.

I did not know about the cutlets for quite some time, but a few months into my trips I had walked to the pantry to have breakfast when I saw cutlets being given shape. On enquiry, the supervisor told the cutlets were normally made and sold just after Katpadi crossed at 0910 hours.

Eventually, I became a recognised face in pantry car and had my cutlets served just after Walajah Road. There will be neither cutlets now nor the tea.

To return to Madras, Brindavan was the best bet. After Brindavan, there was Allepey-Dhanbad and Kovai but of which are extremely unpredictable.

I am writing this because I cant sleep, because of the filthy treatment Brindavan has been subject to. There will be many typos, but please try to understand. Brindavan is no ordinary train. It was among the speed kings of Southern Railways, actually the original speed king if I am not mistaken.

To put into perspective, I borrow this lovely anecdote from the IRFCA server, written by V Anand, the former Southern Railway general manager.

In those days, the Brindavan Express was perhaps the fastest rain on the Indian Railways and I remember driver Mc Gee (there was a write up about him in the popular Tamil Weekly ‘Ananda Vikadan’) once covered the distance of 140 Kms. from Jolarpettai to Bangalore Cantonment in 1 hour and 40 minutes. The Brindavan Express was known for its punctuality and the travellers waiting at Madras Central could set their watch at 19:45 Hrs. by the arrival of 40 Up Brindavan Express. One day the train was 5 minutes late. The Chief Operating Superintendent (COPS) Mr. Godferry Saldhana and Mr. E.S. Muthukrishnan, Chief Mechanical Engineer happened to be on the platform. When the train came to a halt, the COPS walked up to the engine and the following conversation ensued:

COPS: Mc Gee! you are late!

Mc Gee: So would you be, Sir, if you had to pass loop lines at five stations between Arakkonam and Madras.

Suffice it to say that the COPS called for the control charts and other records next day and ensured that the Brindavan Express would be given a line clear right through the main line. Such was his faith in Express drivers of the calibre of Mc Gee.

PS: Ever since I left Madras and Tamil Nadu in 2012, I feel chaos started to take over. Deep down, I feel order will be restored when I move back to my beloved city.