Travelling in the infamous Chair Car Shatabdi Express had always been a luxury ride for me when I was in school. Five years ago, Shatabdi became my metro ride between Delhi and Bhopal. I had almost taken 6-7 Shatabdi rides in the span of six months during my first year and I had their menu literally engraved in my mind. For all the odd reasons that Shatabdi is not preferred, two of them were its all day journey and cramped spacing in the Chair Car (CC).
Executive Class (EC), however, I found overrated. Never took it, never recommended it. For all the reasons Shatabdi IS preferred, its ready availability, I had booked my recent ticket to Delhi in an EC, as per my mother’s recommendation. Let me tell you that there’s a stark difference in the prices, EC would cost at least Rs. 1000 more than CC but since I was fed up with the cramped spaces and stiff neck, unsure as I was, I took it. And my experience was mind blowing!
For starters, the space. Yeah, it’s almost like travelling in business class of a flight, just at the train standards. There is so much space between seats that a person as short as me (5’2″) would hardly have her feet touch the rest at the back of the front seat! But no complains. I could twist and turn and sit and stand as I pleased. My mother and I actually felt like sitting on a train couch, spending our day reading.
Next thing that was impressing was courtesy, politeness and swiftness of ‘Meals on Wheels’ staff. I didn’t know that they actually use fibre/glass utensils to serve and they serve more quantity than what is served in CC. You ask for anything to be served more than once and they will be at it. They themselves give you two sachets of coffee without asking for another one, can you believe? Oh and the highlight of my trip was ‘Himalayan Salt Caramel Popcorn by 4700BC Popcorn’. They serve caramel popcorn in train, totally unbelievable!
Best part of my journey was the soup:
- It is not that ancient water like tomato soup, it is thick vegetable soup
- It is not served in loose disposable cups but in a glass soup bowl and the soup was YUM!
The tinkling of spoons and bowls and silence with the focussed consumption of soup was rare and nice. As opposed to general concept of hustle in the trains, EC has an elitism in its atmosphere with co-passengers being self occupied yet accommodating. Nothing in those cars will make you feel uncomfortable.
Also, instead of one vegetable, one dal, they serve two vegetable (1 non veg + 1 veg/2 veg) and one dal. The chapatis are not dry breads but greasy and edible lachha parathas and I must say that the food tastes hundred times better than what is served in CC. The dessert too is not a regular Rs. 10 vanilla ice cream but a Rs 20 butterscotch, what a change for someone with engraved menu on her mind. PS – they give you a wet wipe too.
As I am writing I realise how comparative my article is that I could make a table for pros and cons of EC and CC. But my intention is not to draw attention to things that are upgraded in EC but to see how a thousand bucks more could enhance your experience. Same train, same number of hours, same pick and drop, a little more cost and your overall experience changes. Once the tiring cramped and cranky journey turns into a luxurious and relaxed ride. I am glad that I could get to explore this side of Indian Railways and realise what hospitality it is capable of. And as we are fighting for unjust pay to human capital, let’s not complain about Indian Railways charging more for providing a lavish and comfortable affair. All in all, the journey is worth the price. Any day, it is EC over CC.