Archive for October, 2012

Indian Rail Pantry Catering – one of the biggest contract in Indian Railways is possibly turning out to be the biggest pain for passengers travelling on long distance journeys. While the passenger has to trust (and in many cases has no other option) the pantry car for supplying hygienic food, the contractors are doing their best to squeeze out money and serve just bearable food. All this under the nose of the government which awards these contracts and is responsible for overlooking these contractors.

How and Why does this happens ? I tried finding during my return journey from Bilaspur to Delhi.

I was travelling in Sleeper coach as I could not get confirmed 3AC reservation. What this does is that I loose the preferential treatment from pantry guys in 3AC, I get dirty and crowded coach to sit it which is raided by vendors whenever they wish and I have to use a bathroom which I would never use under normal circumstances. Anyways, perils of travelling in sleeper coach later.

I ordered food (dinner) to the pantry boy who was collecting orders. The irregularity that I noticed was that the pantry boy didn’t show/had any menu card nor did he disclosed the price of food. The price list is not displayed anywhere except possibly the pantry car coach where its produced on demand. My food came promptly with the following items 1) Dal 2) Aloo Sabzi 3) Rice 4) 2 Roti. Not tempting for sure but what to do when a man is hungry !

Now came the bomb surprise when I was asked for Rs. 82 for the plate of dinner I had. Not only me but other co-passengers who were having the same food were surprised. Sensing our surprise and anger, he did the best thing. He went and got the bill and sat down to talk – all this to prove his innocence in all this.

Railway Pantry Car Bill

So while there was no “Mix Veg” (it was plain aloo matar sabzi) and “Papad” in the food served, the same is shown in bill, still authenticating that Rs. 82 is the caterer decided price to be charged. Ironically, Sleeper ticket costs Rs. 350 for a 1000 km odd journey where you will order day and night meals and if you add to that breakfast of Rs. 50 (Yes ! They charge Rs. 50 for breakfast of 2 cutlets + 2 breads or 2 breads + omlette) it works out to Rs. 214 which is 70% of the ticket cost itself. And all this with the approval of the government who approves these tenders and these prices/menus. Does the government really thinks Rs. 82 is the right price to be charged on train for such a measly meal, moreso when there are such class of people travelling who travel in Sleeper Class to save some money. The result of all this is that they end of eating unhygienic cheap food served at station stops or vendors.

Our talk with the pantry boy revealed more interesting facts. Apart from the fact which he asserted that these are government approved rates, he acknowledged that the food quality is not good and the contractor is loosing out customers with high price low quality food. On an average per coach, the pantry car prepares 20 plates of food. For our particular train, 250 dinner plates had been prepared. Our discussion happened around 10 PM and he told us that only 100 plates were sold. What happens to the remaining 150 ? The excess food is thrown away !! Simply thrown away !! Wasted !!. Made me feel angry for such wastage of food to happen. Supposedly the contractor prefers throwing the food over selling it for lesser price. Is this really the policy under which contracts are given to contractors ?

So how does the contractor make money if so much wastage and loss of food happens. The pantry boy revealed that the cost of this food wastage is inbuilt in the food served to us which is why its being served at high price of Rs. 82. So not only are we make to pay high price for barely eatable quality food, we also are made to pay for food wastage which the contractor does just to keep the prices jacked up.

While we all ended up paying Rs. 82 for the meal, we felt cheated and more-so angry for never complaining about this to authorities. I for once decided to put out this blog-post as a complaint against this wastage of food and loot of money. I did search out on google other people who had complained on public forums. If only the government can look into it and take some action to bring such scrupulous practices to an end so that the journey on Indian Railways can become pleasurable, safe and healthy.

BlogAdda Book Review : Krishna Key

Title: Krishna Key

Author: Ashwin Sanghi

Ashwin Sanghi has come out with his next book “Krishna Key” after “Chanakya Chant”. He has followed the similar 2 story pattern in the book with an interesting plot woven together through intense research which is evident in the novel. Before I go into the review, would like to share this teaser video I found on Youtube for this book. Interesting to have a video marketing campaign for a book.

Now onto my views on the book. Those of you who have read Dan Brown books and in particular “Da Vinci Code” would tend to find start similarity in this book in terms of plot. Nerdy professor solving a mystery of cryptic murders with ancient signs and symbols all over the place, through a fast paced thriller woven with data and facts which at times get too complex and redundant. Sounds familiar to Da Vinci Code right ? Also the two story model doesn’t seems fit for this book and feels like a break between the fast paced novel. Possibly a 10 pager annexure at end of novel would have been sufficient for those having no knowledge of Krishna (maybe international audience ?)

Good thing about the book that you feel is that it keeps you glued, partly by the web of information provided about mythology and Krishna in particular, and partly by the fast turn of events that makes you keep reading and moving on to the next page. Mixing mythology and thriller creates a good concoction like in “Immortals of Meluha”, Ashwin Sanghi has tried his best to do similar thing here. I will give him credit for his effort and research on Krishna (to the extent of quoting his sources down to URL; impressive !!). If nothing else it improves your knowledge of Krishna and makes you want to know more about the beloved “Kishan Kanhaiya”.

<———————————————————–SPOILER ALERT—————————————————->

To give a synopsis of the story-line, it revolves around the lead character Ravi Mohan Saini, a history professor with deep interest in mythology and ancient history, getting dragged as a suspect for murder of his close friend who has supposedly made some mind boggling discovery related to Krishna and has created a cryptic message for anyone who wants to solve it. While our professor runs away with his student Priya  to prove himself innocent, there are 3 more murders throughout the story line by a character “Tarak Vakil” who thinks of himself as Kalki Avtar (10th avtar of lord Vishnu). With all this bollywoodish romance of running around with a girl and mild moments of intimacy and romance thrown in, the reader is subjected to sudden revelation of Priya being the villain. The story takes a twist from here on with another romantic angle thrown in of Ravi falling in love with Radhika, the cop who was chasing Ravi Saini around (Hilarious !). Amidst all this confusion and chase of finding what Tarak Vakil wanted for murdering 4 people, the story comes to an abrupt climax where the lead character realizes that the prize or the “Krishna Key” is not something material but spiritual. (WTH ! moment). You will also get to read a lot of science logic thrown in here and there to justify the existence of Shiv Lingams. Please read through it with a hearty laugh, nothing serious about it. Maybe some sense in writing about religious idols should have been through by the author.

All in all, my rating is 2.5 out of 5. An average read and certainly not upto the hype that this book created and the good reputation of Ashwin Sanghi in particular. Read it if you want to enjoy a fast paced thriller and if you are into mythology. If I get more time I would certainly explore the sources that Ashwin Sanghi has mentioned at end of his book. They would certainly form an interesting read for I am sure interested in knowing about Krishna more.

This book review is part of the “Book Review” program by Blogadda. More such reviews can be found here. Sign up for the Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. and get free books! Participate now!

I would like to thank Blogadda and its team for providing this opportunity to read and review this book.