Aboard The Indian Railways

I have always been a reluctant traveler. Unless I can reach my destination in a jiffy or devour on some interesting fiction, I’d rather stay back. Long journeys by train or road always fills me with excessive thoughts, so much that I get tired of thinking. It’s not that easy to read as the journey is not very smooth, and my only respite then is music–there is no other source of amusement, but after a while even that becomes a literal headache . And the weariness that stays afterwards is very annoying. Of course the scenic beauty and the exotic flora is always a delight, but for me, the cons have always outweighed the pros.

Times have drastically changed now. With the competition in the airlines, airfare has become quite cheap (at least a lot more cheaper than what was before!) and the connectivity better. A matter of few hours and there you are, breathing the air of a whole new city. And the in-between time can be passed really easily, amenities are right at your disposal. Yes, life has taken a new turn. Everything is so time bound. Cannot deny, there was something magical in those leisure filled long travels. And so whenever I remember any of these trips, a strong nostalgia takes over me.

Train trips I had as a child are still fresh in my memory. The hustle bustle of the station always astounded me. The station seemed to be brimming with people, each one present for almost a different reason—some waiting for their relatives to arrive, some waiting for their train to arrive, others waiting to bid adieu to their kin. And not to forget the vendors, selling the wide variety of things that they had, screaming at the top of their voice to make sure that their presence was not lost in the great swarm. Platform numbers were always tricky, I never understood the station plan, only knew that once I was in the station, I was going to be steered by Mom or Dad, who would keep a good grip on me, lest I be lost. And I would be free to observe the details around me.

Waiting for the train was a little boring, although I used to usually entertain myself by checking my weight on that attractive machine, till the time I got my weight printed on the paper that contained my favourite actor’s photograph. Everyone would be lost in the lassitude, till the train came. The far sounding whistle of the engine put everyone on alert. People would move closer to the edge, ensuring that they were the first ones to board the train. You could feel the tension moving through you. As the train comes to halt,  everyone would be brushing through the compartments. I never really got the concept of how to recognise the compartment you were supposed to be in, so I used to consider my Dad a super-genius who got us to the right place with so much ease.

Once everything was set, I’d suddenly remember I wasn’t carrying any reading material along. So, I’d sheepishly tell my parents, who would first scold me for not remembering this at the right time and on the very next station my dad would get down to get one. All the time that he would be on the platform and I on the train, my heart would be thumping with anxiety–I didn’t want him to be left there. I could only be at rest when he came back, and  the very next moment, I would be engrossed reading a new story until my mom would call me for dinner. Dinner would be delightful, for mom would have prepared great delicacies for the journey. The rest of the time would be spent peering outside the dark window, with hands covering the face to hinder the inside light, trying hard to figure something out. The efforts would be unsuccessful, for the train would pass through the remotest area, but nevertheless the efforts would not be given up until it was time to sleep.

And so would pass one night, eventful as it was. The morning would be a little lazy but the outside scenery, filled with so much greenery would always enrapture me. Occasionally, a new chaiwala would visit the compartment with his stereotypical “chai!chai!”, or my Mom, being an extrovert, would be happily making friends with the other people sharing the same compartment, but apart from that we’d be left to our own solace–peering out of the window or reading.

As the destination would approach nearer, I would be caught by a new joy to reach there. Everything would be packed back, and I would sit by the window, gazing to see the outskirts. Impatient as I am, I would pester my parents after every five minutes with the same questions–“Did we reach?”,” How far are we?”. Until again, the train would halt for the last time and I would find myself scurrying to get down and brace myself for a new experience!!:)