Friday, November 30, 2007

14444 and still going stong

If someone were to mention the first thing that makes India stand out from the rest of the world, it would have to be (no,not poverty, unemployment, population explosion, illiteracy, etc! Let's try to be positive!) the Indian Railways! How long has it been since you last traveled by train? If your answer is "never", kindly go shoot yourself! In my opinion, the train travel, whatever the duration of the journey may be, is an amazing, adventurous experience in itself.

What's so great about it? For starters, the train itself! I think (and I am quite sure) the Indian trains hold a record for being the longest in the world. That was the statistics part for the skeptics. Besides that, there's also the fact that in no other mode of travel, namely bus or plane, do you get to interact so closely with perfect strangers. Well that is scary in a way, but only if you carry yourself like Paris Hilton or dress in jewels like Bappi Lahiri. For the rest of us commoners(read normal people), its no big deal.

I agree that a flight maybe the quickest and most convenient way to reach somewhere, but come on! You have to admit, its boring! There is nothing more artificial and mechanical than the process of boarding a plane, right from the check in to the plastic smiles that adorn the faces of the flight attendants! Trains on the other hand, ahh, now that's a totally enriching experience.

My family has a problem. Ok I am lying, we have lots of problems but right now let's just focus on the relevant one. We can never, yes, never manage to safely board a train with time to spare. It always has involved, involves and will involve last minute rush, panic and pandemonium. We have had drills to try to overcome this problem, (I might be exaggerating just a little bit, sue me) but to no avail. Buses, private vehicles, flights, all these we make it in time but trains, now there's a nemesis who time and again mocks us by "almost" slipping out of our hands.

If we are in the station on time(which is 9 out of 10 cases), the train would mysteriously be on a secretive platform (9 3/4th? only Harry Potter fans will catch the significance), and most probably, we would have entered the station from the other end. May the soul of the man who designed Bangalore station rest in peace as the noble soul was kind enough to keep it small. Anyone been to the Delhi railway station? Correction- anyone almost missed a train/ got lost/ missed a family member at the Delhi railway station? The place is humongous! I am quite sure the coolies at one platform run into the coolies of another only after a year or so(yeah yeah, I am exaggerating, again!)!

But once the tough part is done with i.e. once you enter the train, huffing and puffing, dragging the luggage, counting the no. of articles to check if anything is missing, the sights and sounds inside inadvertently bring a smile to the (till now distorted out of exhaustion) face. To an ardent observer of human behavior, it is a treat! There aren't many things I wish for, but if there is one thing that I sorely miss at these occasions, it is the lack of talent for sketching in me. How I would love to soak in the sights in front of me and convert them to something worth remembering and cherishing in material form.

Did you suggest photos? It may be a fact that of late I might forget my mobile phone while traveling but not my camera, but to click photos of perfect strangers? Now that's just rude, weird and well, a tad bit shady! So I make do with just memories of significant incidents and/or people that surround me and my journey.

General compartment, second class, first class, A/C compartment and yes, even goods compartment(there is a long story behind it and my memory fails me as I was but a toddler back then) - been there, done it all. The games that we played as kids, running from one bogey to another, jumping over the parts which looked like they may separate any moment, walking though 3 bogeys just to purchase and consume soft drinks, hanging from the chains that are meant to support the middle berth, peeping into the adjacent berth while on the top most one, maybe its memories like these which make you want to travel once again in those rickety, noisy, yet one of a kind mode of transport.


  1. very nicely put but then, i felt that the post ended short of content.. there could be lots written in here.

    i have an affinity towards indian railways as well - can write pages on my one lifetime journey i had - hyd to ahmd in 60 hrs whereas usual time is 24. 6 of us were never bored th entire journey and we wished that the train would show us entire India on that Rs.400 ticket but alas, we had to be content with mid-india extended tour :D

    btw, the number 14444 is 2002 data :D - i hate to be proven wrong - huh? :P

  2. I certainly can't count the number of train journeys i did my entire life, been to almost all parts of the country! :)

    Very nicely written!
    Nothing beats a train journey, mostly wid a bunch of frnds and maybe a guitarist, oh boyy..dat wud be perfect fun! :D

    Well, If u call Delhi's humongous, What abt Howrah?! :P 24 freaking platforms! The station is like a small colony!! :P

    I somehow like the Chennai RS! Very neat, nice seating facility and the internet browsing facility! :D