From jhalmuri to dosa: Foodie captures from a 4200-km journey on the Vivek Expresshttps://indianexpress.com/photos/lifestyle-gallery/from-jhalmuri-to-dosa-foodie-captures-from-a-4200-km-journey-on-the-vivek-express-foodie-2854335/

From jhalmuri to dosa: Foodie captures from a 4200-km journey on the Vivek Express

How do you get through an 84-hour journey from Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari? You do that with endless cups of tea, some mango jelly and lots of mishti doi.

About a month ago, I boarded the Vivek Express at Dibrugarh, in Assam, and three and a half days and 4200 km later, I disembarked at the train’s last station, Kanyakumari, in Tamil Nadu. The Vivek Express is the longest train journey in the Indian subcontinent, and indeed, the longest I’ve ever been on. I met and conversed with a variety of passengers, and got an insight into migration patterns of labour. The views outside the window were never the same each time I looked out, and, correspondingly, the food sold at each major station, and the snacks hawked by vendors who nimbly leapt onto and out of our compartment changed every few hours. I started out by eating a spicy jhalmuri and ended my journey with a South Indian breakfast. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

The Vivek Express is named after Swami Vivekananda. It starts from Dibrugarh, in Assam, and passes through West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. It comes to halt at Kanyakumari, in Tamil Nadu. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

Jhalmuri is a popular snack in Eastern India. Made by mixing puffed rice, bhajiya, chickpeas, chopped green chillies and onions with a dash of pickle and salt, this makes for a delicious, on-the-move snack. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

Cucumbers at Bankura, in West Bengal, provided a temporary respite from the relentless heat. In summer, the train passes through some of India’s hottest parts. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

That Bengalis have quite a sweet tooth is no secret. Aptly then, all along the length of West Bengal, mishti doi or sweet curd was sold in little plastic cups on the train. It was a far cry from the rich, creamy doi found in Kolkata’s sweet shops, but it helped nonetheless. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

Parineeta (L), 12, and Roshneeta, 11, boarded the train with their parents in the dead of the night in West Bengal. They were travelling to Andhra Pradesh and had only one confirmed ticket among them. So, during the day, the four of them shared a bunk, and we all adjusted to make space for them. At night, however, their father slept on the floor of the compartment, while Parineeta shared the bunk with her mother. A lady co-passenger generously made space on her own bunk for Roshneeta, and we all got through the night. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

Hawkers got onto the train at nearly every station during the day. They sold snacks and lozenges that helped pass the time on a seemingly endless journey. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

Bananas at Bhubaneswar. The passengers in the general and sleeper compartments were mainly manual labourers travelling southward in search of jobs. They couldn’t afford the meals served by the pantry, priced at Rs 150 for a non-veg meal and Rs 120 for a veg meal. At Bhubaneswar, they stocked themselves on bananas for the entire journey ahead. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

The Vivek Express’s entry into south India was signalled by wholesome idlis, vadas and dosas at many of the platforms. They were cheap and delicious and a real delight. The idlis were warm and fluffy and the vadas crispy, and surely the best breakfast I had on the journey. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

Mango jelly being sold in slabs at Vijaywada Station, in Andhra Pradesh. Made in three simple steps — freezing mango pulp, adding sugar to frozen pulp, leaving it in the sun to dry — this special Andhra summer treat was in great demand. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

Tea or chai is an integral part of Indian culture. Naturally, a train journey spanning three and a half days was punctuated by numerous cups of tea. Acquaintances were made, conversation ensued and time flew by — all because of chai. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

‘Andhra chana’ is a simple snack made by mixing fresh chickpeas and coriander, with generous quantities of lime and rock salt. It is healthy and tastes so good that it almost takes you by surprise. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

The train passes through Tamil Nadu mainly at night, and so, not too much from the state is on offer. However, if possible, do lookout for these cutlets and samosas that are filled with ground dal, vegetables and caramelised onions. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)

The train enters Kerala on the third and last evening of the journey. The arrival is evident from the dramatic change in landscape — rolling hills, swaying palm trees, calm backwaters and breathtaking cloudscapes are all part of the package. The Vivek Express is almost empty at Thiruvananthapuram on the morning of the final day. (Text: Anurag Banerjee/ Photo: Anurag Banerjee)