I had loved it and then in between it started to become a painful experience but the love is back. I am sure all of you must have made train journeys at some point in life, unlike one of my friends who was always flying and undertook a journey on rails only recently. While travelling on a train, the window gives a live picture of the wayside and it's like a cinema except the music is only the rattling of the rolling stocks. Travelling in an air conditioned coach with a Side Lower (SL) berth during the Monsoons in India is highly recommended if you do love simple pleasures of life!
As I am in UK, the London underground or tube experience has been amazing and since I have the taken many rides in Kolkata (Calcutta) metro & Mumbai (Bombay) locals, I have managed very well to shuttle between two points in London. I have not experienced the crowd here but may be it is different on weekdays or football match-days. Please do not 'Mind the gap' in my information regarding the transport in London, as I am fairly new here! Well, the phrase 'Mind the gap' is written on the platforms to serve as a warning between the platform and the train and has become synonymous with London in the popular culture.
Indian railways experience is altogether different because of the spread of the country offering diversity in culture, language, food, landscapes and everything else. Railways was introduced in India around 1850s, the first in Asia and the first passenger train ran on 16th April 1853 between Bombay (Bori Bunder/Victoria Terminus/Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus/CST/VT; all are the same) and Thane. This date is known to everybody as the day of introduction of railways in India but railways in India had already started before.
As a kid, while in train journeys, I would press against the windows to see the engine. As the train curved sometimes, the view of the engine would give immense delight while trying to hang on to the window seat while my brother also jostles for it. Particularly in the Guwahati-Dibrugarh meter gauge line when the steam engines were still in operation around 1990s, the jostles would get violent for the view of the steam engine emitting a cloud of white plume and top that with the rhythmic sound of the train (chok-o-poti-chok-chok; does that sound convincing!).
I have experienced rail journeys all over India except the northern region, actually I have not been to Delhi so the plan-master has a trip to Delhi and arriving by Rajdhani Express in the mind ! The best food on Indian Railways would be on the trains operating in Konkan Railways zone and some folks here would acknowledge that. If you travel on Sleeper boogies, they also offer you pillows on a minimal charge which is fantastic. A good sleep is a must for a fresh start to mornings and also when you have to roam a lot the next day.
I had gone to Silchar (think Rudra) twice and took the train one time (2001 AD), the route from Lumding to Silchar is still meter gauge line (it does not have the two side seats, just three seats in a row and the passageway). The journey was painstakingly slow and as the train slowed, the fans would stop and the lights would flicker and dim. The whole experience was eerie and at that time I was a bit nervous on that school trip to Silchar. At some stations or unscheduled stops in the midst of a forest, locals would board with big earrings and strange head gears. Well, I was scared of them because of the remoteness of the place and the flickering lights but the locals were very calm and good humored. They were hopping onto the train to sell fruits and tea and that was a welcome relief for the passengers as the train was running late and most stations did not have any food stalls. After 30+ tunnels, numerous dangerous bridges, crossing forests and travelling along some rivers, we managed to reach Silchar. As I had become familiar with the strange beauty of the onward journey, I thoroughly enjoyed my ride back to Lumding and then back home.
Folks I am actually starting with this new series 'Chug Along'. There will be more to come and this will be the end of first part, posted very hastily so the idea does not go to the bin as already I had deleted one draft few months back.
Cheers and What's your train story?