Travelling has been my passion since ages. Not a year went past when I did not undertake a long journey.
There was a time when train was the most convenient mode of travel. I used to enjoy those long journeys. The trains represented the true nature of the country. It was a symbol of India’s unity in diversity. Trains carried passengers of all different age groups and social strata under one roof. The journey was as much if not more fun than the destination itself.
The train journeys back then….
The train journeys back then had so much to offer. What I miss most are those long conversations one had with the fellow passengers. One did not realise when the polite introductions turned into animated conversations. There was adequate opportunity to even start a love affair or at least a good relationship.
There were some who preferred to use the time to catch up on their reading. The bookstalls on the platforms did roaring business.
There were others who just silently enjoyed the nature through the windows. No one objected to the kids running around the entire length of the compartment playing.
There was so much to learn about the demography, culture and geography and food habits of the nation. There was not just sharing of stories but sharing of food and good habits too.
Hardly anyone travelled light those days. Fitting in the luggage of all passengers under the sleeping berths was a feat in itself. People generally preferred to carry meals from home for the duration of the journey. The packaged water had not come into fashion and running to the nearest drinking water tap or the food stall at every other platform to fill in water bottle or fetch a food item was an exciting experience. One went for the tap while the others kept a watch on the train to ensure safe boarding back.
My favourite journey….
I have been on long train journeys. The personal favourite has been the first journey I undertook with my wife. A long train journey from Pathankot (Punjab) to Madras (Chennai) before boarding the flight to Port Blair. I can well classify it as a ‘honeymoon before the honeymoon’.
The train journey now….
The journey now is much faster and quieter. There are no polite introductions so having an animated conversation is out of question. Books have given ways to laptops or mobiles.
Many prefer to utilise the time to watch a movie, listen to songs or indulge in their favourite online game. Some elders prefer to catch up on their sleep while some form working use the time to complete the pending office work.
Nearly all trains have the pantry car and there is a regular supply of food and water/ beverages. Thus, the need to get down at every other station to fetch water / food is not there.
The aeroplanes have shortened the distances but taken away the fun quotient from the journey. I am sure that famous essay ‘My favourite journey’ must have been removed from the syllabus of almost all schools. What will the kids write? I think most of the students won’t be able to write beyond ‘The plane took off, I switched on my favourite game on the mobile/ laptop and before I realised the plane had landed at the destination airport’. Even the train journeys are no different.
I have remained the same ‘old me’ as far as travel habits are concerned. I just cannot concentrate on the laptops/ mobiles or the books. I would still prefer an animated conversation to pass my time to concentrating on a laptop/ mobile or a book. If no company is available than the natural view available through the window and my thoughts give me the company.
I have had the unique experience of travelling in some Military special trains. Those experiences I will share some other day.