On January 22, 2013, my family and I travelled from Karachi to Rawalpindi in the business class (coach 13, compartment ‘G’) of Tezgam Express. Once settled, we found an army of cockroaches of all kinds roaming the compartment. I jumped down and rushed to a nearby tuck shop and bought an insecticide and toilet rolls (don’t ask the price and quality). Luckily, the train departed on time, at 1730 hours, and thus began a journey of agony. Any fixture or gadget that could be removed from these not-so-old- coaches were found detached, leaving behind imprints for posterity. There were no reading lights, no switches for tube lights that were perpetually on or control buttons to control the AC. Furthermore, the screen-less windows deprived us of a peaceful and private sleep. In the passage-way, the water leaking from the corroded AC ducts had formed small pools everywhere. The toilets – the less said the better. The dining car? The kitchen was reconditioned to give a pure-Pakistani look, leaving only the dining tables – mostly occupied by on-duty police officers, rail-attendants and the ticketless-but-good-at-bargaining passengers – in their original form.

Despite all this, the journey in the company of cockroaches, of all sizes and species, was real fun. After all, it would be too much to expect Pakistan Railways to provide good service, clean the seat cushions – last washed and assembled in a Chinese carriage factory – fix the leakages, repair the commodes and replace the worn-out mirrors with a fare of ‘only’ Rs4780 per head! Although it was two hours late, Tezgam Express at least excelled PIA’s flight PK-787 (ISB-KHI) on which I travelled on Jan 11, 2013 that departed at 0910 hours instead of the scheduled time of 0700 hours.

Munir Ahmad Jan ,