There is something magical about train journeys. The charm starts from the railway station itself. The moment you step inside a railway platform, you are ushered to the concept of secular India. You will find people from all walks of lives, all religions, caste and creed waiting patiently on platforms. Some sipping tea, some listening to music, some talking loudly on phone and some simply absorbed in their meditations. Some rich, some poor, some upper middle class, some lower upper class.
Some coolies dressed in smart red attire, carrying name tags and tons of luggage with ease, sharing useful information with anyone in need. Sometimes within minutes, a crowd of ebullient people would gather and discuss the current political scenario, usually near a tea stall, sipping cups of hot sweet tea over a couple of rusk biscuits.
Now in times of uncertain pandemic situations, people are dutifully maintaining distance and masks which limit uncharted conversations. But behind the stoic silence of masked faces, you can find eyes searching and staring into some what familiar and some what faraway faces.
At times, the whole place is filled with excited chatter of children mixed with anxious cries of worried parents. But as soon as you are settled in your respective coaches and berths, the nervousness settles in and makes way for a relaxed long comfortable commute to your loving places.
I would love train journeys and as a kid there were innumerable fun games that me and my sis played while on our numerous trips from our home to our Didun’s bari, Nani’s house. I would really long to these long rides to my ancestral place. And from there, I think a sort of loyalty has seeped in to my attachment to the train adventure.
However, I envy those who sleep peacefully at train and busy stations and bus rides. And no matter, my love for train journeys I always resist an overnight ride because sleep is more precious to me than my day plans. But this time, my husband convinced me for an over night journey to a beloved destination with my two children and parents.
Sleep was definitely lost, but I gained a wholesome experience of Incredible India. As the train passed through the hilly terrain, the early morning rising Sun was all out in his Majestic glory. Crisscrossing in between dark tunnels, terraced fields and tea plantations, the train chook chooked away, swishing like a snake.
As the landscape change when we leave behind cities and cross miles in quick hours, we meet tinned roof houses, with mud walls in all colors and sizes. The houses have a small bamboo fenced courtyard and you are enthralled by beauty of its simplicity. The children of the village can be seen playing around a big tree and green paddy farms and ducks waddling in small ponds pass you by.
The flora changes from wild forests with dense bamboos to single straight lines of supari, coconut and banana trees. Looking at these simple sites gives you a sort of unexpected relief.
The railway platforms in these quaint locations are neat and clean and almost exotic looking. The small railway cottages along side some big platforms, add to the mystique of your travel. In your dreams, perhaps you will revisit them and spend your time looking at trains traveling by with all its fascinating glory. Your tongue will linger for the taste of hot fresh poori- aloo bhaji prepared and served by smiling simple vendors at such platforms.
All in all, travel time will bring you closer towards Indian essence. The secular and social fabric of this great nation is strengthened by all its people, all regions, all cultures, all art forms. We cannot miss out on anyone or anything. Inclusion for all, growth for all is an inherent message of Indian railways.
This ethereal experience would remain etched eternally in my heart. Share your favorite train journey’s experiences.