There is something about the train whistles in a fast moving train amidst a green foresty landscape that makes me go weak in the knees. They sound romantic and thrilling, mysterious and exciting, makes me feel part of some action, dynamic and ever-changing. The rhythmic chug chug of the wheels on the tracks and the musical whistle sound to go with it and a view from the open window... My idea of bliss.
The typical Bihari style poori-aloo bhunjiya and mango pickle were our inevitable train dinners. Sometimes a well garnished chole with raw onions and lemon replaced the bhunjiya and a boiled egg accompanied the dinner. Open the packed dinner and all the aroma trapped in the headspace of the pack hits the senses automatically generating a larger appetite. Mom recalls we both sisters finished the entire stock of pooris in one go and there was nothing left for her. From then on she made it a point to pack extra. Smart Tip- she makes the dough using milk instead of water. The pooris stay good for even 2 days.
Solo or in a group, I have never had a problem with passing time- I can spend endless hours day dreaming, looking out of the window and I really do not need the company of co-passengers. I have carried a stack of books and spent the entire 2 days on the top berth because there was absolutely no space on the lower berths. I have carried cuttings of Hindu crossword to solve on the train. I can do without company unless they are really interesting or perhaps I can be a mute listener. Pearls of wisdom are doled out by great individuals during long train journeys. Heated discussions over political parties, corruption, strategic plans to revolutionize India, technical knowledge, trivias on trains and the inevitable discussion on the eccentricities of each state. Discussion groups are formed, sides are taken, great singers collaborate to form instant bands using available surfaces for background music and several card games are played.
Nothing beats a sleeper class window seat. The panorama of view streaming by, the blast of cool air hitting the face and sunlight brightening the compartment, not to forget the innumerable purchase opportunities at each station. A/C coaches take 75% of the fun away from the train journey. You can't bargain with the hawker in peace, the coach is always dark and there is absolutely no scope of fresh air. The only bright spots are hassle free journey with no one trying to wriggle into your seat whether you are asleep or awake, no need to carry extra baggage of blankets during winter, marginally better security, slightly better service with less incidents of water getting exhausted, relatively cleaner toilets and no stinky sweating in summer. These hygeine factors make me book A/C coaches every time I travel.
Last December I took my first train journey after 2004. And to think I have been doing train journeys ranging from once a year during work life to atleast 3 times a year to & fro during hostel days. Time constraints and logistic problems with the kids make me go for the boring and regimental air travel each time. You pay a hell lot of money and then you need to arrive an hour in advance else thy may not allow you to board. You take a little extra luggage on you and you end up paying a hefty price for it, you need to sit cramped into a small space, rupee by rupee you get a comparitively bigger space in the train. You need to consume the lousy refreshments on board- for that same amount you could have eaten a large buffet. The airhostess will disturb you for juice and candies even if you have dozed off and by the time you catch up on your 40 winks, it's time to put your seat in upright position.
If only we had better and faster trains, I would have loved journeying on them.