Train journeys are enchanting and unforgettable. Inside - multiple random non-stop gossips, debates, buzz linger; faces, destinations, people change, but the smell and aura remain constant. Outside - landscapes switch seasons, and colours weave vibrant memories with the passing time. The rail changes shapes, embraces forests, stirs mountains, snakes through the ghats, gets comfortable on plains, and unites the whole world on wheels.
Growing up in the 90s, we have all been on such small and long train adventures where everything converged at one point, and diverged similarly. With the arrival of other affordable commuting options like airways that have reduced travel time exponentially, we are slowly forgetting those lovely train journeys. While feeling nostalgic, I felt the gravity of arranging everything together for all of us to relive those colourful moments. Go on!
1. Mornings Started with Sounds of Chai, Samosa Vendors
Talks about trips surfaced the environment as everyone knew that vacations were around the corner. Families would plan everything - "Booking train tickets" was the most important of all. How could we have preferred any other mode when trains were the spicy, subtle carrier of emotions. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I find myself on a train from Agra to Kanpur - to my dada-dadi's home:
"The chai wala shouts into my ears - Chai, Chai. As I wake up, my mother calls me to sit and watch our belongings as she goes to the loo to freshen up. My father is busy saying no to the adamant samosa vendor, and my brother is playing games online.
It's 10:00 am, and the background is filled with noises, clumsiness and murmur from all the directions, and morning rituals of people. I wake up slowly, adjust my legs, cringe about the snoring uncle on the opposite seat, sit back, and desire the same samosa that my father carelessly declined. Meanwhile, an aunty searching for a place to sit tells us to scooch and fits nicely on the seat with eight others which is made for just four passengers. It makes all of us a bit cranky at the moment, but we are all settled after some time."
2. Flights - Monotonous, Trains - Vivacious.
Time and effort have undoubtedly reduced, but flights are monotonous. In real essence, trains were about food to cut time to destination, cards to build friends, harmless fights about favourite political party, and counting the government’s positives and negatives in power.
Sheer happiness was to spot someone from the same age group, equally vocal or introverted; it felt special. Siblings and friends added a flavour to the trip. We used to wait for tunnels. In the complete darkness, we counted seconds of silence and darkness. It was scary, but in the end, with the rays of light, it felt grateful to be together.
3. Slipping into Past for Reminiscence and Future to Make Plans
No matter if the trip lasted for 2 hours or 3 days, we could literally plan our whole future. Moving to the past was equally comfortable - everything moved back in time and space. Flashes of random things would pop up. It was not about just one thing; it was about the connections of dots - every thought led to another idea, and we were enjoying while weaving hundreds of stories in our heads and smiling silently.
4. Burning Brakes Assassinated All Senses
Just while we were about to dissolve in the past or future, a powerful odour of squealing brakes killed all senses. It was a deadly combination of sound and smell. I always wondered in my childhood, from where that smell came? Later, I realised that’s asbestos fibre and metallic grains combined to give additional friction to brakes.
5. Train Boogies were a Kaleidoscope of Expressions
As the train stopped at unknown places, everyone would peep from the windows and doors. And at these unfamiliar places, "chai walas" would again appear magically, every goddamn time. As the train stopped, it moved too. With it moved many emotions. Here we have witnessed families, lives, stories, pregnant women, fondness of a mother, a father's strength, and a sense that everyone is looking out for everyone else. Inside, as we observed closely, we found other things happening in panorama: Clingy couples made promises of a lifetime, cuddled in corners, and dreamt of togetherness; as Ticket Examiner arrived, geniuses with no tickets slowly moved towards the loo or acted as if they were sleeping; youngsters found their reliable partners and played with full freedom; adults were binge-watching; aunties were gossiping, and uncles chewed on peanuts. At the same time, an uncle on the corner seat clamoured at the mobile phone so that his voice could reach the person on the other side.
6. Life and Living - What Better Place to Witness These?
Beggars roamed asking for money; A boy was singing - "Me Nikla oo Gaddi Leke,” a stunt girl performed with the singing boy, and sellers sold art or goods to earn life. As crazy as this may sound, it was life on wheels. People didn’t just travel; they made a living.
Train journeys were not just about being inside. We also spent a reasonable amount of time on the platform listening to the announcements carefully, scouting on all local shops, and looking for magazines which we purchased just for pictures and also novels which bookworms magically completed during the journey itself. (These superpowers, I tell you🙄.) Then, the eatables shops were all set to water our mouths - Health conscious people would purchase fruits or cucumbers, while others would go for samosas, jalebi, sandwiches, aloo-bondas, refined snacks, biscuits, etc.
It was life and living in a symphony.
7. Trains Evolved, and so Did Railway Stations
From coal to electric trains, a lot changed. Railway stations evolved much the same way: We can feasibly check the status of tickets on official websites; our loved ones can track about the train from outside; we don't have to sit overnight at the station in case the train is late, for that we can just check the status of the train and plan our day.
Shifting to faraway locations from home, most of us have abandoned trains and prefer flights, but rail journeys will forever hold a sweet corner in our hearts. In those trains, we have left bits and pieces of our childhood, the puri-aloo to aptly relieve our hunger demons, queues to wait in, those adamant aunties who would sleep on the whole seat claiming their own, the real hustle and bustle of the entire country meeting at a point to bring everything together and travel happily.
In those journeys, we were the emptiest and shared the most. Although other means might have reduced time or have made our trips more manageable, we all should travel by train at least once again, not just to live the memories but, as they say, to feel some things more. I am sure that it will butter up your circuits and give current to your senses which might be resting somewhere in nostalgia. Till then, keep on recollecting and living your childhood❤️.
Thank you for landing on this page and reading my recollection of memories from the most unforgettable journeys. It is a pleasure finding you. Do let me know about your experiences.
I would love to read your stories, as well. Drop your handle in the comments. If you are into stories or poetry, I am your girl. Connect with me on my blog and Instagram. I would be the happiest to see you on the other side.
#Train #trainjourney #nostalgia #emo_travellin