Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) plans to pamper passengers of the 12301 Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express as it departs Howrah on Sunday. After all, the passengers will be part of history. The Rajdhani Express, Indian Railways’ first luxury train, will be completing 50 years Sunday. The first Rajdhani of the country ran from Howrah to New Delhi on March 3, 1969.
And who would better to be in charge of the celebrations than the son of the first Rajdhani’s catering inspector Ratan Chandra Chandra, who passed away in 2016. His son Debashis Chandra is now the group general manager (east), IRCTC. He has promised to make the journey a memorable one for the passengers.
“We shall serve fish fry or vegetable cutlets to AC-II and AC-III tier passengers. There will also be rosogollas for dessert, apart from the regular ice cream. First AC passengers will have a continental menu with fish fry or vegetable cutlet and the special caramel custard that used to be part of the menu at one time. We shall also welcome all passengers with chocolates and roses,” Chandra said.
In 1969, Indian Railways was not only experimenting with a high-speed luxury train but also with the concept of clubbing meal charges with ticket fares. The instructions were clear. Passengers had to be fed well.
With no clear instructions, it was left to the senior Chandra to fix the menu in a way that no item was repeated. He soon realized that First AC passengers preferred continental meals and he carefully picked chefs to prepare the food.
When dissatisfied, Chandra would cook the meals himself.
“During those days, Rajdhani passengers were considered elite and no slip-up was tolerated. The train had a lounge car and chair cars then. Coolies weren’t allowed into the train and coach attendants would carry passengers’ luggage to their seats. Apart from other items, passengers would be served fish a la Kiev, vegetable au gratin and pudding. My father would never compromise. If he came to know that a passenger didn’t like fish, he would get chicken cutlets prepared for them. He would also carry fresh fruit in the pantry car and serve surprises like mango soufflé. This concept was later picked up by the Mumbai Rajdhani that started in 1972,” Chandra added.
Though Rajdhanis are still considered premier trains, there has been a sea change in the quality of service. Even the fish fry, served on the Howrah Rajdhani that passengers swore by, was discontinued a few years ago. Chandra said efforts are on revive some of the train’s lost glory by bringing about changes in the menu.
Source: Times of India