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Chug Along - I

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?


raj alakshendra said…
awesome .... another masterpiece from raths ...

as far as my train journeys r concerned the best was our first goa trip ...

i think i should put down a post on that trip.
samik said…
Though I am not a big fan of train journeys I do like short trips.May be because I can count with my fingers the number of train journeys I have had.But I have learnt two lessons the hard way.Never travel in the sleeper class during summer(you feel like a potato inside a pressure cooker) and change your coach if you are traveling alone and a full Marwari family is traveling with you. The ‘soothing’ rattling sound turns into a head splitting cacophony thanks to continuous different baby cries and reverberating snoring. On top of that countless baby napkins and ‘Haldiram’,’Bikaram’ bhujias fly everywhere. Sometimes spilled milk from the bottles and leaked pea from the napkins make their way to your luggage. You make futile attempts to retrieve your chappals ,which is deep buried under their huge pile of luggages, to visit the toilet. But all you manage to do is sit in a corner with your arms and legs folded and wait patiently for the ordeal to get over.
Disclosure: I have nothing against the marwaris.I wrote those only out of affection.
Unknown said…
I have always traveled by the train, only until recently. Nonetheless, I like travelling by train because it serves as excellent time for me to catch up with my sleep. it doesn't matter whether a journey lasts for 24 hours or 46. I shall surely be sleeping for the 90% of it.
Unknown said…
Raj - Yeah, that was quite a trip..

Sam - haha, yeah M carry too many luggages..stuffed with bhujias and paranthas..Bunty, zara pakodey mausi sey lana !

Yeah, quite an ordeal sometimes..

Shayon - At least everyone likes but for different reasons :))..The steady jerks of the train coaches must be inducing a feeling as if you are a baby sleeping on a swing !!
atri said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
atri said…
I really love reading your articles ....
Sakshi said…
rathz, I am sure that this is an AWESOME post, I am currently SWAMPED with work..and I will post a proper comment on this ASAP!
I think I would have probably travelled by the maximum number of trains,taking the maximun number of train routes in India. After having travelled in General compartments, sleepers, ACs,Rajdhanis,Shatabadis, passenger trains,local trains,metro and what not, I think I love travelling by Shatabdi the most. I especially love travelling on the Delhi-Dehradun route of Shababtadi. Unlike the Rajdhanis which ply over long distances, Shatabadi trains usually have a run of 4-6 hours and have chair cars. The Delhi dehradun shatabdi runs through vast paddy fields and the view outside is panormic and healing.Couple that with the food they provide at regular intervals and you have all that it takes for a great journey.I usually carry s good book alongwith me,so that again makes it enjoyable .However, the best feeling I get is when the journey ends and I get down at Haridwar railway station. It's like homecoming!
Unknown said…
Folks, you too can post your own stories to the 'Chug Along' series..
@ Rathz,
Sorry for the late comment, but I somehow thought I commented on it before!
Anyway, I really liked the post and your story got me thinking of my various train journeys! So I'll be writting one soon.

Rajorshi said…
It's been a long time since I 'TWM'ed. But I must admit that whenever go through the posts, it just makes me awestruck at the genuine master'posts' by each one present in this forum. Just as gold,how much old it may become, never loses it's shimmer, in the same way the posts ultimately fnds it's way to the reader and fetches it's due appreciation.. So, for this post alongwth the embedded one, are just awesome.. Really njoyable..
Unknown said…
Cheers Raj bhai..

Would love to read something from you as well..
Unknown said…
Yes, sure would like to read one of your train stories..will it be the Bombay-Tata route??

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