Travel in India is always popular among all kinds of society. Maybe it is for a vacation or a spiritual darshan. For the past 20 years, the number of travelers across India had tremendously increased in numbers. I would say, after Covid 19, once the travel conditions were relaxed, people started traveling with a rebound interest and vigor. From the lower middle to the upper crest of society everyone wants to travel and see places. Some of the travel agents are even offering easy EMIs for those who could not afford them. Most people travel by trains, whose connectivity is great. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Guwahati to Ahmadabad they are operating trains every day. Indian Railways is the largest network that handles a huge number of trains each day. The trains transport not less than 2 lakhs people per day.

But I want to ask them a few questions. This is not about keeping the time of cleanliness of the carriages. But it is about the seating arrangements they offer.

25 years back there were meter gauge and broad-gauge rails operative in India. Meter gauge rails ran within certain states and broad gauge connected the states. But the government took a policy of changing all meter gauges to broad gauges and effectively completed the Himalayan task within a record time of 15 years. I congratulate our Indian Railways on this wonderful job. That was great of you guys!

Now I would like to point my attention toward the side berths in all classes. Most people travel by train because it is both economical and convenient. But is it convenient for people who were allotted side berths? I will say a huge NO to that. The side berths are designed in such a way neither we can sit comfortably nor can lie down. No arrangements for keeping our handbags or backpacks, no bottle holders, whereas the people in the same bay but main berths enjoy these perks. Why this?

Not only that, but once we are done with sitting and want to stretch our backs if we pull the berth, there comes the real difficulty. The two cushions which are attached to either side of the seats will be on different levels. This means the lower side berth will not be a plain surface instead there will be a dent in the middle. Some of you might even ask what does it matter?

But trust me it matters. Normally while booking via IRCTC or across the counter, senior citizens prefer lower berths. But the dent in the middle of the side berth causes them a lot of pain and leads to spondylitis. When I was traveling from Chennai to my native near Kanyakumari, I happened to travel with a couple of senior citizens. The lady was given the lower side berth and the man was allotted the side lower berth in the next bay.

After a few minutes of chit chats, they ate and wanted to lie down. But lying down was not exactly easy as it sounds. The berths had a dent and they felt extreme pain in the backbone. They asked the TT about this and as usual, he was helpless. The old man started shouting at one point. He was furious because he had saved money from his pension and was taking his wife as a pilgrim near Rameswaram. He wanted his wife to enjoy the journey which was not possible due to the side berths.

Both the senior citizens spent the night, sitting for some time and lying down for a few minutes, and again got up. The night was a memorable one for them but in the wrong way. I wanted to exchange seats with them. But Since I was in the top berth they could not take it. Others were also middle-aged people with back problems so naturally, they could not help either. The morning when the train reached the destination. Both of them were worn out and were in no mood for any temple. All they wanted to do was to lie down and nap for a few hours.

Most of the Indians are not rich enough to travel by flight! But Indian railways offer them an economical way of having Bharat Darshan. I want to ask railway people about this side berth. Why no attention is given to the side lower berth? Why is no consideration for the poor souls who are allotted the side berth? Why side berth at all? You may point out the huge number of passengers. Yes! I agree! But that does not justify the dent in the side lower berths! If at all you give side berths, maintain them and offer all those perks as that of main. I don’t know whether my question reaches the eyes of the officials concerned. Even if it does, their fingers might point to some other who is responsible and theirs might point to someone else’s. There is no end to this as Indian Railways is a very big network.

All We want is to provide us the comfort we all deserve while traveling! Economically weak does not mean we have to adjust to the inefficiency of your staff. For most people traveling to another part of India is a lifetime ambition and achievement. Make the travel memorable in a fond way! We are not asking for anything not possible. It is quite possible to maintain the cushions with a flat surface, not with a dent. Whether the bathrooms are cleaned, or the food offered in the tarins is tasty comes next to this. Please don’t be indifferent to side berths. Those who travel in that are human beings too!

If any of the Railway officials are reading this, please initiate the process of making the berths comfortable for all! This is your responsibility! Because we don’t know whom to contact or whom to complain to. But you do! Give us our right to travel economically and comfortably.

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