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The mezzanine at Chennai Central

For a train lover, there can hardly be a better vista offered while dining, than the modern-day mezzanine location of the Saravana Bhavan at Chennai Central. At one of the seats adjoining the glass walls overlooking the platforms, it is a railway kaleidoscope that is mesmerising. Trains with mighty electric engines from Vijaywada, sometimes further afield, terminating with a satifying hiss. Hundreds of passengers alighting, with varied belongings, scurrying outwards happily.

On the other side, anxious but eager travellers to catch outgoing trains. With the sense of expectation that is there at the beginning of every journey, no matter how frequently done. The touch and feel of the vehicle that is to convey you. The loco right out in front, for those who care to take a look at it. The interested group of 6 people who are inevitably there, looking on, when the loco is shunted into place.

The buzz of announcements, with arrivals and departures from all over India, giving one a slightly dizzy feeling sometimes. People buying newspapers, pirated novels, magazines with free casettes in them, fruit and the cautious ones buying chains and locks to secure their belongings under the seat while they snore in comfort in the swaying coach at night.
And while observing all this, one can tuck into a mini tiffin, with cocktail idlis, a wada, a small dosa, and an upma, with two types of chatni (green and red) and molagapodi, with coffee to wash it down. I can hardly think of a more instructive and fruitful way to spend an evening in town than this.