☛ Indian Railways decides to enforce baggage limits

The Times of India reports:

As a result of numerous complaints regarding excess baggage being towed into train compartments, the Indian Railways has decided to strictly enforce its over-three-decades-old baggage allowance rules, which will see passengers paying up to six times the stipulated amount as penalty, if caught travelling with overweight luggage, an official said today.

I never even knew that these baggage rules existed. All these years, I’ve simply assumed that there were no formal baggage limits; that space constraints and being reasonable to fellow passengers is all that stops people from carrying waaay too much stuff with them on to trains. Unfortunately, people often do carry too much stuff with them, and to the level of straining and breaking limits of reason.

Which is why the rule enforcement itself, to me, is entirely justified. Even in the little travel that I have done via Indian Railways in the recent past, people carrying way too much luggage, both in quantity and physical size, is way too common for comfort.

The important question, though, is how much luggage is allowed? After all, the railways is used in a vast majority by people for whom expense is a major factor.

According to the prescribed norms, a sleeper class and a second class passenger can carry luggage weighing 40 kg and 35 kg respectively without paying any extra money and a maximum of 80 kg and 70 kg respectively by paying for the excess luggage at the parcel office. The excess luggage would have to be put in the luggage van.


For example, if a passenger is travelling 500 km with luggage weighing 80 kg in the sleeper class, he can book his excess baggage of 40 kg for Rs 109 in the luggage van.


Similarly, an AC first class passenger can carry 70 kg of luggage for free and a maximum of 150 kg, after paying a fee for the excess 80 kg.

An AC two-tier passenger can carry 50 kg of luggage for free and a maximum of 100 kg by paying a fee for the excess 50 kg.

Only 35-40kg for the second class passenger? That seems a little on the lower side. Barely a couple of suitcases, perhaps? In our international travel to and from the USA we’re allowed 46kg in two checked in suitcases, along with additional cabin baggage; surely a railway compartment should be able to accommodate more per passenger? The limits for the AC classes seem a little more reasonable, but still low considering that fewer passengers occupy the same compartment area.

The cost for extra baggage doesn’t seem too bad either. About Rs. 100 for essentially doubling the baggage allowance is hopefully okay, considering prices of other commodities, although I hope the baggage charges increase with the class of tickets. The cheapest tickets should really also have the cheapest excess baggage charges, considering the budget conscious traveler.

I’m most concerned, though, with two things. One, the excess luggage is to be placed in a separate luggage van. (Come to think of it, I’ve always known these luggage vans exist on trains. I always assumed they were for freight or oversized luggage. Huh.) I’m guessing the luggage van is perfectly safe with no fear of theft, but I’m also certain many, many passengers will take a long time to be comfortable with the idea of their bags not being right next to them. (Although, side benefit: if the bags aren’t just lying around in the compartment, they’re safer from theft.)

Two, they say they will “enforce” the law by random checks. This is bad, especially in India, where: (a) this situation is ripe with bribing opportunities, and (b) random checking introduces the concept of fairness between travelers who got caught and who didn’t. I really hope they figure out a more robust way of executing this.

In concept, the baggage allowance idea seems reasonable, but I hope they do a good job of the current idea, and I really hope they revisit the current ideas and update them based on feedback and usage data. The Indian Railways is a lifeline in India, and things like this can have a major effect either way.

The Mystery of the Abydos flying machines in ancient Egypt

I had not heard of the Abydos carvings before. But then we went to Egypt, and it turned out that my Dad had requested that Abydos be put on the schedule—even though it wasn’t a ‘usual’ tourist destination. (I still don’t know whether he’d come across these specific carvings as a reason to go there. Baba, will you leave a comment if you read this? :))

But the carvings were quite amazing. There they were—a few of them adjacent to each other, each apparently depicting something we’d recognize as a modern (or future) means of air travel. (I have my own photos, but it’s easier to link to photos online.)

Was this really evidence that the Egyptians knew how to fly—or at the least, had witnessed flying machines?

My immediate thought was an emphatic NO. Not simply because it sounds implausible, and not because I don’t believe in aliens. Even if it is possible, I had my own reasons: amongst other qualities, the Egyptians certainly had one—they were record-keepers. They kept extremely intricate records of everything they knew about—and repeated this knowledge everywhere they could: every temple, every column, every tomb.

Is it really possible that they witnessed something so—forgive my pun—out of this world, and only made ONE reference to it? One set of carvings, in one temple, located in a far corner, high above the ground, where it is easily missed? Now that is implausible.

Of course I looked online when I was back—and initially, this is the best explanation that I found. Apparently a set of carvings were recarved, i.e. more carvings were done on top of the original—each modification at different times, even—with the end result being what we see today. I did not like this explanation at all. The webpage has some detailed drawings, but—I didn’t like it. How many separate coincidences must there have been—over many centuries of recarvings, done intentionally by different sets of people—that such an intriguing piece would result? Again, implausible.

Now I’ve found a better explanation. And this involves more chance and less human intervention. Apparently there are other carvings found at the same temple, which have nothing at all to do with avionics, that can explain our mystery. It can be something as simple as an incomplete carving, coupled with damage over the millennia!

Seen side by side, this image and this one seem to indicate quite convincingly that our mystery panel was meant to be similar to the other, more conventional, carving.

Granted, it’s still quite a coincidence—alien theorists, you need not retire yet on this one—but it still seems an acceptable coincidence!

Are you convinced, or are you looking up at the sky, trying to look past those cloaking devices?

P.S.: It’s so easy to find anything alien related on the internet! The cloaking device thing was intended as a joke, stemming in large part from my teenage—and, ahem, later—Animorphs days. I did a Google search looking for interesting links, and voila!