Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Romance of the Rails

I am sure this post will rekindle a lot of cherished memories of your train travel. After all, who wouldn’t like the romance of the rails. Think about the excitement had you got a window seat. What a bonus!!!. I am sure they will kindle the kid in you :-) . Personally, I would not approve the same with flight journeys. Even though I was pretty much excited during my first flight journey to UK, when I boarded back to India, it was more of a nightmarish feeling. The reason for the nightmare: A flight accident that occured a week back before my start.


Train journeys are a great experience in themselves and a great leveller .You get to interact with a lot of people. This is especially true in India when you travel either horizontally or vertically across India. Except for the train and some of your fellow passengers, almost everything right from the food to language, dress to appearance et al.. is bound to change. Although I have the privilege of travelling by suburban train daily, I do more so to avoid the routine morning traffic rather than to enjoy it. But long train journeys are a real class act.


My travel started more as a whim. My father was supposed to travel. As he opted out in the last minute, I had to replace him. Thank my stars. As I look through the kaleidoscope , the other end of it shows a picturesque Ernakulum in Kerala. I reached the Chennai Railway station with two hours to spare . There was a huge amount of luggage to be carried over to the platform. So we engaged a trolleywala. You would be shocked if you hear the ridiculous and atrocious price he charged to carry the luggage from the entrance to the platform. The price was almost equivalent to a two way second class train ticket between Chennai & Ernakulum. But I must admit that my uncle is a master haggler. He made that trolleywala reduce his price by almost 70%.


As we parked all our luggage in the platform, it was time to take an idle stroll around the Railway station. Me and my cousin Girish took the idle walk along the platform. First, I excused myself and went in search of a loo to relieve myself of the pressure around my abdominal area :). Then we marched towards a VLR. I ordered myself a masal dosai and a masal vadai. With a burp, we walked out of the stall.


You see I have this bad habit of reading (Or you can very well say Pretend to be reading :-) ) while travelling. Whether or not I read, I buy something to fill the time and my brain with useless stuffs. So my next stop was Higgin-Bothoms. I scanned through a host of magazines and books and novels and zeroed in on THREE MISTAKES OF MY LIFE BY Chetan Bhagat( I wondered whether I had made my first mistake by buying this book :) ). I little realized that this would be one of my most enjoyable read. It was a really good read and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.


The time was 8 pm and the train slowly started and so do my excitement. After all, it was a long time since I had my last train journey. We were 72 people travelling . So we booked an entire coach and half of another. As the train smoothly glided through various stations, I sank to my seat watching the wonder outside the window grill. I think there is a unfound happiness of watching the drama unfolding outside the window. As a child, I had the looked with amazement the bogies, engines, track changes, lush green fields . I must admit still I look at these things in awe n wonder .


As I was about to go to my dream world, someone knocked me and gave me three packages. The time was 9 pm and it was time for dinner. Girish's mom had prepared dinner for all of us. As I opened the first packet containing Idli and Molaga Podi (Chilli Powder mixed with oil ), a tinge of small flashed across my face. Allow me to ramble a few years back to my last Train journey . A trip down the memory lane.


Travel from Chennai to Mangalore. A trip to the lush & exquisite Western Ghats. Deepak, Kaushik , Ramani , Girish and Myself were travelling. Girish is a diligent fellow. As always he took the initiative of preparing food for the night. Most of us had directly come from office to the station. So we were damm hungry. Even as the train started each of us grabbed one food pack and starting satisfying our appetite. Deepak was late to join in the food grabbing incident. So that left with only one food packet. By the time he came, we had almost finished our dinner except for the customary finger licking. As Deepak opened his packet, a gruesome shock awaited him. Instead of idlis, it contained Girish's undergarments neatly packed with a plantain leaf and a Hindu news paper :) ROFL…… For almost the entire night we were laughing and laughing. We wondered whether we should have called it jetli instead of idli (The former closely resembles to undergarments in Tamil ).That was a real fun. :)


 Even as pleasant memories flashed past my mind, I finished my dinner adding Fried rice and Curd rice to the already list of Idli. As the average age of the contingent was above 55, young people like me were asked to take the upper berth. And with a heavy heart I departed my window seat and slowly climbed up. It was time for me to open the book I bought at the station. As I flipped through a few pages, I heard a sounds of coffeewala. My uncle stopped him to get a coffee… Soon others followed him. I am sure that guy would have made a good business. Slowly comments started coming in. My uncle accused the fellow of serving as hot water with 2-3 teaspoons of milk and little sugar. Others agreed. To be frank it was only like that.


Even as those accusations were happening, something suddenly struck me. I felt I was in an urgent need to purchase a few bananas. Most of you would be familiar with reason behind it. I have had a pretty bad experience of not having one during one of my previous travels which had created a ruckus in my stomach.


Time   11 pm. Station: Katpadi. I fervently searched for any shops with banana. Couldn't find one.


Then I retreated to my couch in the upper berth. Even as I continued with my reading, suddenly the lights went off. It was time for others to sleep. Slowly I closed the book as well as my eyes. Sleep was hard to come by especially in the cramped narrow space and with me measuring more than 6 feet , it was  very difficult to fit in. Finally managed to get some sleep. Dunno at what time I fell asleep. The next time I woke up, it was Salem.


Time: 12.45 am Station: Salem. As before , I checked shops with Banana. Couldn’t find one.


Time 4.00 am Station : Palakkad. As the train entered the platform, there was a tinge of smile in my face and a nostalgic feeling in my heart . It was my native place :)

Still no sight of a banana vendor


Time 6.45 am Station : Ernakulum. Atlast I reached the other end of the kaleidoscope. The magical journey atlast came to an end.The entire contingent made their way to the marriage hall while i made my way to a relative's house near by. 

Oh... forgot to metion... I relieved myself of the pressure in my stomach even without the help of banana....  :)


  1. Hello dhruv,

    Interesting topic..Infact my next post was going to be on the train journey..

    However, i expected the post to be more centered on the journey, instead of personal experiences..
    Anyways, its ur post

  2. Nice Post :) .. I love train journeys, even though they are a bit tiresome.. I usually have 4 extra long train journeys per year (Hyderabad to Delhi: crossing 6 states in 26 hours) as the first stage of the journey to Pilani (where I study).. Each journey has been nice so far..

  3. interesting stuff ... will come back to read more of your stuff!