Posts Tagged ‘trains’


T: Trains

April 23, 2015

As a child of the 80s in a middle-class family, the primary mode of travel to any place outside Bangalore was by train. Madras was a destination we frequented the most. And there were trips to Nasik, Bombay and Calcutta as well. These were the more fun ones as I recall, since it meant spending over a couple of days on a train. More than the hours spent gazing out of the window, the distinct memory that stands out of train rides for me is retiring to the upper berth (second class, three tier – always) and curling up with a book. Since these books were borrowed from the library, inevitably, it meant the book had to chosen with great care, since we’d be paying for each day. 

Train journeys also meant food, but of course. Amma would pack chapathis with pickle that would last us a couple of days. And I recall being allowed eat the odd bread omelette at stations (eggs, at that point were a big non-no at home) That aroma of the green chillies in warm omelettes sandwiched between large slices of white bread – the heat often rendering the bread moist – is something I associate with trains. And the tea. Most often weak, watery, insipid. Yet, eagerly awaited. 

There is a certain undeniable charm and romance associated with train travel. I love the languorous state it puts you into. There is a sense of time slowing down and expanding. I love to read a book, or gaze out of a window and surrender to the thoughts in my head and prefer not to be disturbed. Unless, you’re a hawker selling something hot, preferably fried and hopefully tasty. 

Today, trains, unfortunately are no longer my preferred mode of travel within India. The reason being a combination of low-cost airfares, super comfy buses that zip across straight flat highways in no time and my hatred for the toilets on Indian railways which somehow seemed more tolerable in my pre-adult days. Besides, if I must take a train, I can now afford the relatively cleaner AC class. Which means no gazing out the windows and tasting the warm air and the rain.

After returning to India, I was excited to take a day train for a trip. I enjoyed it, but I was partly disappointed as well, since it no longer matched the image of train travel of my childhood. Things looked different, but thankfully, that sense of time slowing down was still there. I’ve been on a couple more since then, and hopefully another tomorrow, and I’m happy to say I still get a little excited at the prospect.

And then there are journeys that I will undertake someday, I hope. For the longest time, during my Singapore days, I toyed with the idea of at least taking the train from Singapore to Bangkok. But I only managed to take the train to Kuala Lumpur. And there is the Indian Pacific train that traverses the breadth of Australia, that Bill Bryson writes about in his book, In a sunburned country. Closer home, I still haven’t done the Ooty toy-train trip. And I’d love to revisit Darjeeling and take the train there as well. 

For now though, I’ll go to bed, and hopefully dream of a window seat, a good book and constantly changing scenes outside. And a sense of time standing still.