A while ago, we got to do something that I think we all must do more of: we went to Bombay in the Deccan Queen. The rest of this column is dedicated to explaining why it turned out to be such a splendid idea, but the long and short of it is this: go to Bombay on the Deccan Queen.
It’s something that everybody used to do, about twenty years ago or so. Come summer, every Punekar worth his or her salt would want to do one thing for sure – pack themselves into the Deccan Queen and go up and down the ghats, and so into each other’s cities.
Those were simpler days, of course, and it didn’t take much to keep us entertained and occupied. Remember, this was a time when the internet was not yet upon us, when discussions on politics used to be convivial, and going to see a movie called Judwaa seemed to be a good idea. You young whippersnappers will scarcely believe this, but people used to queue to get into McDonald’s, rather than the other way around.
But as a thing to be experienced, I think a train journey to Bombay, and especially by the Deccan Queen, would hold up pretty well even today. In our case, it was especially pleasant because it was the first time our little one was going to be going anywhere by train.
I was 24 years old when I first stepped foot in a plane. My four-year-old has flown more than 24 times already.
She had spent the entire week in giddy anticipation, and by the end of the week, even we couldn’t wait. And the truly wonderful thing is, the Deccan Queen lived up to our expectations, and then some. Right from the first sighting of the train, upon which my daughter let out a squeal of pure excitement, up until we stepped out at VT, it was just a thoroughly wonderful experience.
I don’t know quite what it is about the Deccan Queen, and the aura around her. Perhaps it was the way she pulled out of Pune Railway Station at 7.15 a.m. sharp, or maybe it’s the slightly regal feel that she manages to keep around her at all times during the journey. Whatever it may be, going to Bombay on the Deccan Queen just feels – right. It seems the correct way to do things, but in a very nice way, if you see what I mean.
The food is certainly part of it. We had recommendations from all and sundry about what should be had, ranging from the omelet to the baked beans on toast (both good choices) and including the vegetable cutlet (good as far as it goes, but not my choice). If you ask me, though, you really ought to have the cheese toast. It involves putting a lot of cheese on top of a slice of bread, and then deep frying the whole damn thing. And if that doesn’t describe heaven, I don’t know what does.
And here’s the thing: if you time your visit to the Deccan Queen dining car just right, you might find yourself packing away a really good breakfast while crossing the ghats between Pune and Bombay. And as the Deccan Queen pulls royally through the mountains, offering you jaw-dropping vistas involving rolling green hills, spectacular waterfalls and cozy little villages in the far distance while you polish off your second cheese toast, you reach a seemingly inescapable conclusion: the world isn’t all that bad after all.
It really isn’t, I assure you. But for you to truly agree with me, you’ll have to do you and me a favor. You’ll have to go to Bombay on the Deccan Queen.
He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime