Traveling by Brindavan in the A/C chair car between Chennai and Bangalore, used to be my favourite mode of transport to visit Bangalore. This was before the two A/C coaches were detached from the train, a couple of years ago to promote the use of fully air conditioned, less expensive `Double Decker` trains.
One enduring memory I have of the Brindavan express, as a foodaholic ( I was one in my younger days!) is the parade of vendors from the pantry car, selling a variety of mouth watering snacks, which I could hardly resist! While in the Shatabdi,, where the caterers mechanically serve you fixed items, often unpalatable, at appointed times with clockwork efficiency; the vendors in Brindavan were more human, friendly and very hard working. Imagine having to walk up and down the aisles of the coaches hundreds of times in a day, holding the tray of snacks on one hand and balancing themselves, by holding on to seat tops with the other hand. That too in an undulating train, running at high speed .And doing this day after day, for a living. Great guys! Hats Off to them.
Now coming to the food items …If you were catching the morning Brindavan from Chennai to Bangalore, the first items to appear would surely be the traditional breakfast menu: Idli or Pongal with Vadai (invariably cold and hard because the items must have been prepared the previous night), served with insufficient, watery and sometimes stale coconut chutney.
If you have the patience to wait for the next round of snacks, which could well be “Hot Masala Dosa” or “Hot Bread Omelet”, then you are assured of a better fare. But the chap would insist on serving a minimum of two dosas at-a-time, with a generous serving of fresh chutney. My favorite was Omelet and Bread with a packet of tomato ketchup; my second breakfast in two hours.
Obviously there are many more hungry people like me on the train, who were not satisfied with even two breakfasts. So from about 9.30 am there would be a parade of vendors selling Vazhakai (raw banana) Bajjis, Chilly Bajjis, Cutlets, Masala Vadas, Garam Bondas or Samosas not to forget ready snacks, like biscuits, Lay’s chips etc.
They kept coming back again & again until I was tempted to try just one Bajji or one Cutlet, just for tasting them, you know?! But the smart vendor insisted that a plate came with a minimum of three Bajjis or three Cutlets. They had a target to meet, you see!.Needless to say, I invariably fell into this trap and had my third breakfast.
I always admired the guys who went around selling tea or coffee in the train. The way they balanced the hot steel containers between their legs, leaning on the side of the seat, adding a spoon of Nescafe and sugar into the cup and then filling it up with the watery milk from the container to give you a hot cup of a concoction called Coffee! No wonder the term “train coffee” or “train tea” have become synonymous with bad coffee or tea!
Though the food items continue to be available on the Double Decker trains, its cramped seating makes it one of the most uncomfortable trains to travel. Shatabdi, though fast & comfortable, provides no choice when comes to food items. Any day I will vote for the re- introduction of the two A/C chairs cars in the Brindavan Express. It had a charm of its own!