The Indian railways journey has always been something mostly which an average middle class has always been fascinated about. The holidays and the fun of travelling across the vast expanse of India on railways while enjoying the natural beauty of the country is unexplainable. My journey from Kolkata in the eastern part of India to Ahmedabad in the west of India traversing through Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh to fringes of Uttar Pradesh and finally covering rustically beautiful Rajasthan to reach Ahmedabad was truly epic. It’s true that the journey stretched for 51 hours, yes you read that right but it was totally a very different experience that one must feel for oneself. While the Indian railways of course operates at lower moderate speeds compared to global standards but the brisky breeze that hits your face be it the hot loo in the afternoon turning into the pleasant breeze of the evening and the chilly winds during the night standing near the doors is an immemorable experience. The pleasure of travelling with Indian railways inside the compartment is of course a very different story all together where the various languages, food and the smell of it apart from the vendors selling them to the different socio-economic cluster formed through various families is a mind-boggling experience all together. The train journey which I had on “Saare jahan se accha [ The best of all !!] express” yes quite literally the journey explained takes you on east, central, a bit of North and west of India really tickles your senses to the extreme for the wanderlust through a single Indian train journey.
Travel through Indian railways is more like the saying “It’s not about the destination but the journey in itself”. People who are in a hurry of course have the airlines as their mode of travel but when one takes an Indian railway for their journey it is not just about just reaching but the travel senses that are heightened. While I had the train journey that started from Bengal crossing the green fields to reaching Jharkhand and moving past the heated mine fields is just the beginning. The journey takes on a more enchanting experience when you cross the heart of India which has from the small rustic mountains to the barren lands. Before you realize that the journey through incredible heart of India is being covered the train when it crosses the Taj Mahal late in the evening on the second day of your journey it is simply breath taking with the sun setting down. The night sets in and the memory keeps on repeating itself over and over again. The night time when the food comes in either through the travelling vendors or the ones you carry from your home is also the added bonus of the travel that happens in Indian railways only one can bet. Once you feel the need to tuck in with the berth beds being put up and nicely fall into sleep with the brisky speed of Indian railways the peace is unfathomable. The train whistling away in the night for the next.
No wonder that the train crosses several small stations flashing past the stars in the night. The next morning when the journey starts with a cup of tea poured into the paper cups gives you the start you need. After you had freshened up and waiting for the dose of breakfast which changes over the region your food palates expectation always keeps going up. The train keeps on moving as you taste the sumptuous breakfast which may not be necessarily health be it the “Kachori- Oiled chapati like food with awesome spicy potato curry” surely is something that can remind you truly bliss lies in good food respectively. The train journey now takes on the final leap as the afternoon kicks in and you reach Rajasthan. Yes, the exotic for many including me belonging from the same country surely must be realized through your visual senses first. The women walking in the far-off fields to fetch water of course may have more than what meets the eye but the first glance at it surely at least for me had a romantic thought process. The next In line was when you see camels being used for transport in small towns as in a moment you cross them creating flashpoint memories. This is something which you then breathe as the smell of the dusty and heated lands of Rajasthan hits you. In reality you can actually smell the coriander when the train passes across the fields.
In the last leg when the magical Rajasthan comes to an end and before you realize the train conductor tell you that you have entered Gujarat. The sun is still there in the sky with its orange coloured disc shining on your face even if it’s 7 P.M. in the evening. The fields which passes by you can spot Nilgai “Big antler deer’s” to round up your journey. The compartments are now much emptier as you are finally reaching the end of the 2600 kilometres journey across India. It is like you have covered your spiritual journey in one part of the country. The lights from the residential complexes on the outskirts of Ahmedabad start to become visible. Then as you cross into the city of Ahmedabad station the swanky expressways go past and you realize that what an incredible journey you had across the various geographies, cultures and the expanse of the country you had. The time to pack the bags and leave the small comfy berth to deboard your train or should I say your home for more than 50 hours was finally here. You could see the signals of the Ahmedabad station from a bit far off and the tower lights. The journey which has covered your senses in terms of food, visual experience over a period of two nights is like a package tour in itself. This is one journey which needs to be experienced which differentiates itself from conventional hotel and package tours of India.