Yesterday, I travelled first class in the Shatabdi Express, from Chennai to Bengaluru. I’d been looking forward to the journey because of the extra legspace in the offing, and the ability to sit in a train for five hours without having to manspread, curl up (to the extent possible), give up and pay for some ‘XL’ option or simply forswear your kneecaps. As it turned out, there was extra legspace, and the journey still sucked.
In its ‘common class’ coaches, the seats on the Shatabdi Express don’t have a headrest, but the first class seats do. However, it doesn’t protrude entirely from the top of the seat as much as begin from three-fourths of the way up in the form of a pronounced bevel (about an inch-and-half to either side).
As a result, I couldn’t sit up straight without being forced to stoop forward. The only other option was to recline such that, when I slid down the necessary amount, my head would rest on the bevel and my shoulders would be spared. Turns out for someone 6’4″ tall, such a configuration is not possible. So while the ‘common class’ coach penalises me for having a long bottom half, the ‘executive class’ coach penalises me for having a long top half. Second, if the Indian Railways has someone about 5’5″ in mind as the typical customer, doesn’t traveling in ‘common class’ already give them all the legspace they need?
Being tall is useless – and not seldom actively painful – in India.