Janata Khana vs Economy Meal

Ever wondered about the story behind the food they serve to you on trains? I have, often. And, I had my aha moment a few days ago, while idly surfing the net early one Sunday morning. (Yes, that is a dead give away, isn’t it. That I read commercial circulars of the Indian Railways before breakfast on Sundays clearly shows I have no life whatsoever).


I stumbled upon an old IR circular (2003) from the Railway Board to all General managers, that set out detailed instructions for serving food to Passengers.

The most obvious strand running through the circular was the fine balance between wholesomeness and parsimony expected from purveyors of food on trains. Or as Commercial Circular No 33 of 2003 says,  “vegetables supplied along with the meals should be seasonal to make it affordable and also to ensure good quality and freshness.” 

I have always believed that the Indian Railways is the only commercial government entity in India that thinks it has anything resembling responsibility to its customer. (Air India marks the other end of the spectrum). And I was glad to find out that the attitude comes from the top. As the Circular says in point (vi) of its Other Recommendations, “menu should definitely have variety and the same menu on lunch and dinner for the day should never be the same’ (bad grammar, good intent. which is the kind of priority I like.)

However, the mysterious workings of bureaucracy are never far in Indian life. And so it is here too. “The existing Janata Khana and Economy Meal have been merged into one category and is called Janata Meal with increased quantity”

If like me, you too have no life, read the full circular here.


Konkan coast on rails


(Map of Konkan Railway)

So, I am off again. The idea is to get to Mangalore and work my way up to Goa and then from there to explore the beaches of Sindhudurg in South Maharashtra. It is a non-plan, plan. I have a train ticket from Bangalore to Mangalore. I have a ‘second sitting’ booked from Mangalore to Madgaon. (I think www.IRCTC.co.in is a blazing wonder – I just booked, very effortlessly, a 71 buck ticket for the MAQ – MAO journey and even have a window seat allotted to me; need to see whether seat allotments hold on passenger trains on the Konkan railway). I also have a return ticket to fly back from Goa to Bangalore. Hopefully, serendipity will help me fill the rest.

Click here for all my posts on the Konkan.

And, click here for all my posts on Trains, planes, spacecraft etc.

Bangalore to Mangalore – by train to the Konkan coast

Once upon a time there was this quiet town in India renowned for its great weather, doddering pensioners and slow & steady factories. And a few hundred kilometres away was another small town on the sea, with a massive smell of drying fish as its unique signature.

Life went well for everyone till a crazy Texan came to town (the first town with great weather) and in a short span of time had so corrupted the place that it was overflowing with cars, traffic jams, call centres, multi-milionnaires and java coders. While all this was going on, the second town was still on its placid path, with its unique olfactory imprint intact.

But a few souls in the sleepy, smelly town decided they wanted to get to the big city that the other town had now become. They too wanted ‘success’. So they fought hard for a railway line between the two towns.

Energised by the pleas of its people, the government decided to set up a railway line between the two towns. And started a project. The project went on. And went on. And went on. Soon, everyone in the two towns forgot about this railway that was being built. They went by car, by bus, by plane. By everything but by train. And the two towns bustled.

Till one day, when somebody suddenly said, the railway is now open. Continue reading