Posts Tagged With: Indian Railways

What is it in a train journey?

man looking outside the train

a dreaminess fostered by the noise and the views from the windows. Image source: Flickr

What is it in a train journey that takes us to a land of day-dreaming and deep thinking? I have always felt a calm in the rhythmic movement and sound of the train wheels moving ahead on the tracks and the occasionally loud horn.  Every time before a train journey, I would pack a book that I intend to finish during the journey. In addition I would also buy some magazine from the vendor on the platform; as if the book won’t see me through! 🙂 But more often than not I end up reading just a few pages from the book and manage to flip through the pages before losing myself in some thought trail. Suddenly the fellow passenger will bring me out of my reverie and ask “Can I borrow your magazine?” and I would say “Of course! Here” and that would be the last I will see of the magazine during the journey.

Slowly as I start looking out of the window, I would again be lost in another day-dream. And the thoughts will be far off from what I would normally want to ponder on. They would most definitely not be something I have been “planning’ to sit on for some time, when I find time. And when I have all the time during the train journey the slow pace, the chatter of the passengers, the fast moving scenes outside have their own way with my thoughts. Why does that happen?

I always wondered, until I read something that nails it so well!

“… the silence that reigns inside while the wheels beat in rhythm against the rails outside, the dreaminess fostered by the noise and the views from the windows, a dreaminess in which we seem to stand outside our normal selves and have access to thoughts and memories that may not arise in more settled circumstances … Journeys are like midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train… Of all modes of transport, the train perhaps is the best aid to thought: the views have none of the potential monotony of those on a ship or plane, they move fast enough for us not to get exasperated but slowly enough to allow us to identify objects.”

-excerpt from chapter On Travelling places in The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton [p56-57]

Categories: around us, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Endless stories on Indian Railways

I love traveling by train and particularly Indian Railways. Love meeting strangers; sharing a few hours of my life with them, knowing well that I won’t meet them again. Whenever I travel alone, I always look forward to see whom will I be sitting next to.  I think everyone has at least one unforgettable memory of the Indian Railways. Mine being the fairly recent interaction with a number of people, things, platforms etc that make up the institution called Indian Railways.

During a trip to Bombay, I narrated my whole story of how it took me 11 hours to cover 60 kms by train and all the adventures in between; to Anu and Rane. One story led to another and we realised that just between the 3 of us we had some 10 incidents related to rail journeys to tell. Apart from my Chalo Dilli experience; there was the 1st when I travelled 1st class from Delhi to Kolkata in Duronto and how both me and Sikander were truly impressed by the hospitality and class of the staff on board. No air travel can come close to the luxuries of railway 1st class!

Then there was this story that my dad used to tell so often –

“When I was a MR, I had to change trains at Bandikui station late at night and once I had a strange encounter, which I still sometime question if it really happened or was my imagination. It was very late at night; in fact it would be more correct to call it was very early in the morning. I was sitting on a bench, smoking my Wills and waiting for my train; when I saw this old man with a stick and blanket on his head come hobbling towards my way. He stopped in front of him and said if I have a light. And the moment I lit the matchstick and took it towards his face to light his cigarette all I saw was blankness”

For a long long time I thought this story to be true until I read Ruskin Bond’s horror stories! 😮

Rane told about an incident where the up and down Geetanjali express used to meet at an intermediate station and that too on opposite platforms. One can imagine the confusion that would create. Passengers boarding from that station were always double checking if they boarded the right train!

Anu was telling about an incident when she and her mother had to board a train with departure time 12:05am. When they boarded the realised the seat was already taken. Now it’s not very uncommon that 2 passengers have been given the same berth so they went to check with the TT where they discovered that they were a day late for the train!

We both laughed at recounting our 1st experience with Mumbai local trains. We were a group of 10 freshers going from IIT to Bandra which meant changing train at Dadar. The local train stops for exactly 2 seconds on each stop and we realised Richa alone couldn’t board the train! It was the time when cell phones were still a luxury and definitely not something that college students would posses. The rest of us in the train just kept wondering – should we get down at the next station and go back to kanjurmarg; what if she left by the time we got back? should we go to Dadar and wait for her there?

One of my friend met his wife on a train journey! Isn’t that romantic? But I don’t think I should tell their story here.. but I was very enchanted when I heard it 🙂

The stories kept on going for the rest of the day…

So when I came across this book – “The Penguin book of Indian Railway stories” edited by Ruskin Bond, I couldn’t help but buy it! It meant more railway stories! And some from the bygone era –the era of the steam engines; the era of the Raj. I’ve just embarked on this train of memories and I don’t want the journey to end soon.

 

These were some of my stories while traveling on trains.. do you have one to share?

Categories: Books, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

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