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It was a mid afternoon departure on the Vasco de Gama Express from Madgaon and a 20 hour journey from the Arabian Sea to the Gulf of Bengal and Chennai. We travelled on 2AC sleeper class, drank lots of hot sweet milky chai, dined on vegetable and chicken biriyani, breakfasted on ….. Hot sweet milky chai. We never did find out what happened to the breakfast wallah. We were entertained by a mouse that scuttled about the carriage from time to time. Indian Railways need to invest in some cats.

At sundown two sheets arrived courtesy of South Western India Railways in a large brown paper bag with a printed set of instructions and warnings on it: ‘If you find any bedroll item Tattered, Torn, Stained or emitting any foul smell ask the Bedroll attendant to replace the same.’

We passed through Bangalore in the early hours of the morning and, remarkably after a 20 hour journey, pulled into Chennai Central Station precisely on time.

Even anticipating what to expect, arriving at the main railway station at a large Indian city is a full scale assault on the senses – swarming crowds, blaring noise, bustle and badgering from touts and tuk tuk drivers. But a half hour ride through the mayhem that is the midday traffic in central Chennai brought us to the sanctuary of the Madras Club …..

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