Train Journey


Trains remind me of my blissful childhood…it used to bethe appetizer for the vacation ahead at my grandparents’ place or Delhi… it’slike the starters they serve before the main course comes in. All the rattleand chatter around with Moms silencing their children and dads talking aboutpolitics and children jumping around… it was probably one of the few times inour lives that, me and my sister would bond and play cards. We’d play cardsendlessly interrupted by the junk food I’d want. Every salesman shouting his wareswould be entertained and hence would I.
Almost none were spared. Right from jhaal muri, samosa, chai, coffee, frooti,ice cream, Puri sabji everything was consumed by me and dad would literally cryby the end of the journey. We’d spend as much on the food as was spent on theticket. This when mom would pack the usual Puri and tomato chutney, with potatofry and of course the thair sadam (curdrice) which is sacred to South Indians, and to my dad most in our house.
We were invariably lucky to have another family travelling in the same bay orthe next and so we’d almost always find interesting people and team up to playcards and learn new games. I’d jump around when not playing cards and hang onthe chain and do the gorilla act, hanging and doing somersaults etc. People allaround would be tired looking at me. I now realize how much trouble I was to myparents. Mom especially since dad was the cool dude around. Hardly affected byany of the stuff unless it harmed the co passengers directly in which case he’dcrack his whip on me. Well not really whip but a word of caution. 🙂
And then there were window seats. I still love them. It’s so much fun to lookat the trees and clouds and long unending fields of rice, sugarcane, sunfloweretc stretched far into the horizon… my dad would show me a bird in some tree.It’d be a beautiful bird, only if I saw it. I almost always missed the sight ofit, when all the rest got to see it. I’ll still nod my head in affirmative andhave a fake amazed look to comfort dad and give him an indication that I dolike nature and so he show me more if he notices any… Hoping to get it the nexttime. !
And then there were the tracks. For a very long time I thought the tracks gavebirth to new tracks and they were intelligent and playful and that’s why they’dsuddenly part into 2 and go under the train or merge together to part away fromthe train leaving their siblings still under the train. And I was convinced ofthis notion almost till I was 10 or 12 years old. One fine day I finally askedthe question to my dad much to his surprise as to how the rails produce andreproduce… he then explained me the stuff and I kind of lost interest inwatching the rails now that I knew they weren’t intelligent and playful, but notcompletely though. I still look at them and let my childhood mind take over andthings random things.
The next was the power cables. Ever stared at the power cables that run alongthe railway tracks?? They sag between the poles and rise up at the polesholding them. Just staring at the cables gives one an illusion of the cablesrising and going down continuously… and now this was fun for me. The cablesalmost had a life of their own. And so you’d know that it’s going to go up andhen down and up and then down… and it’d be like a traveling wave of sorts…and I’ll be lost just staring at them. There’ll be times when the tracks wereon a higher ground than the poles and so you would see the wires at your eyelevel or lower.
And back then we didn’t travel in the beautiful and clean ac coaches. They were2nd class sleeper coaches where the only supply of air was the window and thefans would invariably not work in the bay you would be. So it’d be hot humidand sultry. But it was fun. We had open windows and so like every child I HADto put my hand out. And what we see Hrithik Roshan do in ZNMD today, everychild has done that in their childhood. I used to love doing it while in thetrain… the train would be cruising and your hand felt nice in the strong airblowing outside. The hand would go up and down just by the mere direction ofthe tip of the finger. You wouldn’t even have to make an effort at making itlook like a wave. It was natural. 🙂
Getting down on the stations with dad was the height of fun. There was a thrillof looking at the train from the platform and then boarding it when it’d slowlystart to inch forward. Also there was this sense of growing up because childrenweren’t allowed to get down. 🙂 As a boy that feeling governs most of theactions one does. Girls grow up silently and are most of the times aware of thereality; boys on the other hand are more sort of passionate about growing upand are farther from reality. They are always under the impression that they’regrown up while being immature. Girls always know where they stand. In a way that’swhat attracts the two and that’s where the boy begins to want to impress a girland the girl is like “take -t easy kid ” 🙂
Tunnels were the next high on ajourney. They were rare in my case since the route we took to go to Chennaifrom Bokaro in the Alleppy Express didn’t have any. But the one to Delhi had acouple. But sometimes they’d come at night when it didn’t matter. The conceptof everything going dark all of a sudden in the middle of broad daylight, was exhilarating.You never would see a sudden transformation from daylight to darkness, andhence this one still takes me to cloud 9. You shout and hoot when the tunnelcomes. It’s pure fun.
The Alleppy Express used to be aconsiderably long train. It had around 25 coaches. It passed through patches ofland which had huge turns and were clear on both sides. We would look out ofthe window and see the train turning. That was something we inherited from mom.She used to be super excited looking at the train turn and call us. And me andAnu would jump on the seat and peep out of the window to see the engine and thebogies of the train turning. It was such joy and happiness.
So the train journeys did transform me and sadly today we sit in ac coacheswith tainted windows and stare at the laptops playing a movie rather than birdsand rice/ paddy fields. Or you’re on a flight because you don’t have time, onlyhis time you’ve white clouds to stare at. The horizon is clearer; at least itappears to be. 🙂
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