Warning: This one is tooo long… and may be a bit rambling at places considering that it was written during the month-end… when the madness actually begins…

 The brat loves being on a train… As a small child, he couldn’t get over the fact that it stopped at every station… which his three-hour flight from Muscat to Cochin every year apparently did not… Not that he has done very many long train journeys… The longest I have taken him is from Mumbai to Cochin when he was six… along the Konkan route but sadly; most of it was spent in a fever-induced haze in a shivering AC compartment during the monsoons.

 Let me not digress. The brat gets his love of trains from me… I can travel on trains for days… smug in the feeling that I will love every sight, sound and smell of every station along the way… That my stomach will withstand everything from pazhamporis at Palakkad, oily vadas at Erode, sliced cucumber spiced with red chilli powder and rock salt at Ballarshah, pulihora at Vijayawada or the kulhad chai in West Bengal… And also take in the long power cuts (yes, on the train), the lack of water or the dirty loos and the general disorder associated with a second-class compartment… Nothing, I repeat nothing, can match the joy of standing at the open door of the compartment, looking outside and feeling the wind on the face. And if you had a fellow-traveller whom you managed to befriend, the conversations at the door only got more interesting.

 The longest I have travelled is from Cochin in Kerala to Sindri in Bihar (now Jharkhand)… crisscrossing Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal to get into Bihar where my maternal aunt lived. The journey took three complete days… with an eight-hour stopover at Madras (before it became Chennai and took the beauty out of the name!) where a compartment from the Trivandrum mail was shunted into the Madras Mail that would take us to Calcutta… and thereafter another train to Dhanbad and  finally, a dirty pick-up would deposit us through the mine-fields of Jharia into the quiet and serene township of Sindri.

 I have travelled by train umpteen numbers of times… mostly from Cochin to Nagpur in the two years I studied at Nagpur University. Regular journeys by the Kerala Express meant I got to know the pantry car guys well enough to merit a special hot breakfast or coffee on demand.

 And then, the people who travelled along with you!  Gujarati families may be all chatter and noise, but when it comes to food, you can never starve. When they travel, they transfer their entire kitchen onto the train (minus the gas stove) and make sure that the co-passengers they like are well-fed too… I have been the recipient of their food largesse many a times. Sometimes, certain friendships have been carried beyond the train journeys too… as pen-friends… (yeah, long before the advent of the Internet and e-mail and that’s food for another story!)

 No train journey was without its excitement… Long signal stops, inordinate delays, some one pulling the chain as a prank or even a couple of thefts but the camaraderie was something that is hard to replicate in these days when you don’t know your own neighbours.

 I don’t do long distances by train these days. Lack of time on a one-month annual holiday, a new affluence and budget airlines have contributed to the fact. But I do make it a point to take the brat on short-distance journeys… atleast a four-hour one to Coimbatore every year.

 And maybe when I have finished chasing the golden pot at the end of the rainbow, I can take the Jammu Tawi Express from Kanyakumari to Kashmir with the brat… And watch his innocent eyes light up with amusement and exhilaration… For it will not only open up a whole new world to him… but reopen my eyes to the beauty of my own motherland.


15 thoughts on “Nostalgia series – Long train journeys

  1. this one seemed like you were talking about me 😉
    my best train experiences are in the unreserved compartment, making sitting space near the entrance with newspapers to protect the backside. we (friends) would sit on the steps and enjoy the leaves grazing our feet and the wind brushing our face. exhilarating. this was when the mangalore-bangalore train chugged along the most scenic routes and began its journey noon-time. the best spot was at a place called yedakumari – breathtaking!
    thanks for this nostalgic experience

  2. That one was NOT toooooooooo long. Good one indeed. Infact we have ‘live’ experiences to share with you. mischievous. If I start a blog on ‘My experiences with Indian Railways’, surely I can bring out a couple of volumes. We had arrived from Tirupati this afternoon. This time also we had bitter experiences. One may wonder as why I share such experiences. If at all somebody is able to learn from other’s bitter experiences……….

    We had in our group, my mother-in-law (SR CTZN), a lady with an infant (my spouse and the kid) two of my elder children, a sick lady (could walk only in slower pace) & her husband. The arrival time of the train was 00:35 hrs and we were waiting at the PF1. However since there was no announcements, we checked up with the ENQ office and found that the train is reaching at 01:35 hrs at PF3. We all were waiting in PF 3 (DISPLAY WAS ALSO SHOWING THAT THE TRAIN IS REACHING PF3 – Train No. & Coach Position). Inspite of this there was an immediate announcement informing us that the Train “will” reach PF1 (infact we could see the train slowly moving towards PF1.) . All the passengers were panickly running to catch the train. I told my wife to come slowly and instructed my elder son (11 years old) to bring his nanny.

    I rushed to the Dy Stn Mgr Room and shouted at him (with decent shouting and without any bad remarks). I got wild when he said that ‘the display is beyond his control’. I informed him to help the passengers, instead of troubling them like this. What he said to me was that he can delay the train by 5-minutes. On reaching the PF1, I brought my mother-in-law and wife so that he is convinced such passengers are travelling in ‘INDIAN” rail.

    What pained me wasnot all these things! There was not even a single soul complaining about such mischievous acts of the staffs.

    Whom I should complaint?, to the Railway Minister, or to the Women & Health Ministry or the Ministry of Social Justice & Power or to the Ministry of Welfare. Or to the Railway Safety Commissioner (to that matter, the passengers safety is put into thin air by such in-human acts). Please note that this is not the first time such incidents happens to me.

  3. Superb Rekha, very good Travel Piece.I just loved the way you write this piece. Do you have any photos to go with
    pazhamporis at Palakkad, oily vadas at Erode, sliced cucumber spiced with red chilli powder and rock salt at Ballarshah, pulihora at Vijayawada or the kulhad chai in West Bengal…

    1. thanks siva 🙂 love doing travel stuff… but don’t get to travel much… no. i have no photos of these experiences. no camera back then 😦 perhaps if i do a train journey this time… will make sure to click many pics…

  4. no, no, no… i have seen gujrati families with little kerosene stoves. can never forget that sight. at the ooty train station, they were sitting and making hot theplas.
    love, love train journeys. some of my nicest crushes were on fellow passengers, travelling mds-blore-mds.

    1. oh! these gujjus sure are ingenious! hot theplas on the station… wow! yup! train journeys have a charm of their own… and, ah! crushes!!! i really wish i could go back in time!!! thanks for ur comment 🙂

  5. very nice indeed. I ahve spent a lot of time on the train too travelling from boarding/hostel in Mangalore to Kannur.

  6. Dear Rekha,

    Thank you for your comments posted on my latest blog. There is a coincidence. Last fortnight, I wrote something related to a train journey. Kindly visit http://www.renjithps.blogspot.com and check out “The Protruding Suitcase”!! I spotted it because I saw your mention on “Pazhampori” at Palghat Station, which I also did!!

    That was really nice!

    Well, this post of yours took me to another train journey back home… Thanks much.

    Best Regards,
    Renjith, Bahrain

  7. Good one. You transported us to the second class compartment of the great Indian railways. Along with viewing the world through the iron window, what is equally enjoyable on a train journey is the sleep on the upper berth. The chuckling and the rocking of the train could be a great sleep inducer.

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