Every summer all through school, I took train journeys with my grandparents. Rocky motion, non-stop snacking, reading under the dim lift-up lights, sleeping in the upper berth...many fond memories but always one peeve. The loos. As a kid, I don't think anything was scarier than the thought of having to use those loos. Many years have passed, many new trains and routes introduced, many techie things added(like plug points in the compartments, cell phone towers for coverage etc) but the loos have stayed the same. And overall cleanliness seems to have worsened.
I discovered this at the cost of taking my kids on a long train ride from Hyderabad to Madras. Sky rocketing fuel prices increasing the cost of flight tickets and saying Bye bye to Begumpet prompted this experimental train ride to Madras. First a/c is the business class of train rides or so we thought. (First class would be attaching your own coach to the train). The compartment was far from clean, the berths needing quite a bit of dusting and washing. An orange coloured cheese ball turned black after being dropped in the gap between the window glass and metal fix (Our intrigued kid was keen to taste that as well). A half hour into the ride and a trip to the loo revealed a broken potty and dirty, messy floors leaving it absolutely unusable. The bedding that was provided was musty-smelling and sneeze-inducing. And to top off all that, the train staff were not friendly or helpful. It's ironic that there was a bell to call them if we needed anything, but even a face-to-face didn't accomplish much. The one thing that they promptly did was to wake everyone up at all unearthly hours indicating the arrival of an important station making sure to mention that it was their job to do so.
Overall, the experiment was a bit of a flop. We will most certainly fly on our next trip. What trials that may bring is anyone's guess.