Thursday, May 17, 2007

Udhampur to Jammu

We were nine people, all part of a large family, trudging the beautiful hills of Shivalik range on a not-so-comfortable Sumo. We had just left Patni Top after a sumptuous lunch. The Sumo was moving down on National Highway 1 to an unknown railway station called Udhampur. Pujan kaka reassured all of us that he has taken the right decision in booking the ticket from Udhampur, rather Jammu. Our destination was, of course, Delhi.

We reached the station through a tortuous path. It was a new station. Lots of vegetation were cut down to construct this station as it was surrounded by the lush greenery that is a trademark of Jammu and nearby regions. Where the station ended, there was a sharp dip and one could see the air-force runway far down. Udhampur is an army cantonement.

We waited for our 6.50 PM Uttar S Kranti. It was one of the two trains that used to run from Udhampur on a weekly basis. That would mean that the next train was two days later. I passed my time playing snake on my mobile and broke my own records. I had no clue what was behind those hills through which the train was supposed to pass before it reaches Jammu.

We settled on our respective seats. Being with family means you don't need to go into the details of requirements while traveling. Pujan kaka ensured there was plenty of everything before the train start. I was appetising myself with one such food item when the train started. My younger cousins started crying when they saw that a tunnel is coming. It was a long tunnel and one of the 20 tunnels that were on our way to Jammu.

The most exciting moments were when the train passed on a bridge, only to find a hill, and then it had to go into a tunnel. There were 20 tunnels and more than 150 bridges in total, the longest tunnel being 2.5 KM long. I decided that I will not miss a single second of this interface that existed between nature's beauty and prolific creativity of mankind. Hence, I stood on the gates of the train, despite Ma and Pujan kaka shouting not to. I cannot forget that instant when the train came out of a tunnel and in front of me was a long arched white bridge made over a river.

We stopped at Ramnagar and proceeded to Jammu. However the awe and sense of incredulity didn't stop until the darkness of night encapsulated us. The journey from Udhampur to Jammu, a stretch of 53 KM, was the longest in my life.

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