"Most of the 22 coaches of the Vivek Express have been built in the integrated rail coach factory at Kapurthala and the rest at Perambur.
A majority of passengers on the train are soldiers manning our borders since China is just 220 kilometres from Dibrugarh," station in-charge R.
One unravels local tongues and makes friends with fellow-passengers even as one's tastebuds explode with a smattering of food flavours.
After braving a downpour, as we await the station master and train staff at the crew lobby, we chance upon an intriguing procedure: Driver Mohammad Rahimuddin, 55, blows hard into an alcometer for a breathalyser test done to ensure drivers aren't tipsy when they guide the train.
That done, he gets an update on the locomotive's load capacity, electrical output and power certification from the staff before he heads to the pilot's cabin.
The two additional days he gets to spend with his family are worth their weight in gold biscuits from the Gulf, says Simon K. "He has just got a job at the Pathanamthitta town collectorate," he says with palpable pride. He is six feet tall, you will see when he comes to pick me up at Chenganur," he adds.
For his 22-year-old daughter, Simon, working with the Assam Rifles for more than 30 years, is taking along saplings of cacti grown in Nagaland, which bear colourful flowers in 13 resplendent hues.
An arm-less beggar looks for alms, finds little success but goes through the vestibules from second AC to three-tier, to sleeper, to general, with a beatific smile. "What's a couple of swigs of Mansion House whisky when the country has other important matters to discuss?
Tell me, what about the Chinese incursion in Ladakh?After all, they too have a ticket to ride and no standing room. The cheap fare is provided by contractors who take their cut. That will be done by the flying squad," philosophises a moon-faced ticket inspector who refuses to divulge his name.Oblivious to the heat, grime and noise, clad in similar vests, flip flops and jeans, a group of youngsters is engrossed in a game of cards."Travelling 4200 kilometres for peanuts must be the cheapest fare in the world anywhere? The ticket for third AC is Rs 2305, the sleeper class Rs 925 and for the general class Rs 545.The general compartment, where more than 200 people are crammed into a space fit for just 90, is where this economics is at play.What drives these agricultural workers, who form the biblical salt of the earth, to seek employment thousands of kilometres away in Kerala and Tamil Nadu?