Wednesday, April 23, 2014

'T' is for Train-travel

My college was at Pune, at the other end of the country, so to speak. The train journey took close to 40 hours. It also meant I changed trains once to take the Deccan Express from this place called Kalyan, near Bombay. Yes, it was Bombay then, not Mumbai. Those days no one even thought of travelling by air-conditioned coaches. And, more often than not, it was hot.
So how did I survive these journeys?
Oh, I would perch myself on the top most bunk, tie a scarf on my head to protect myself from the dust and hunker down for the 36 hours it took me to reach Kalyan. I would read, sleep, sweat, eat everything that the food vendors were selling from jhaal-muri (puffed rice with stuff mixed in) to cucumber slices and would maintain a strict distance from my fellow travellers. Once in a while some people made the mistake of trying to talk to me. I'd like to think they are still smarting from it!
You see, I rarely had companions travelling with me, I was the only girl from Calcutta in the class and not being a very friendly sort, I had learned to live with myself.
This was such a far cry from the train journeys we took as children with the family. Mom would pack a meal, we would carry, water, biscuits, snacks and other munchies and it would be a picnic all the way. We also had a hold-all which carried everything from pillows to blankets if required. Dad loved trains, he studied the routes and the stations, together we followed the railway time-table and had tea at almost every junction! Those train journeys were part of the holidays we took and, usually, fun.
Even now, I'd happily take the train. I adore the chicken curry and rice they serve and it's the only place on earth where I opt for a tomato soup. I'd probably want the air conditioned coach and be fussier about the loo, but you put me in there with a good book and make sure the train has a pantry car and I'm good to go!

Travelling by train with the girls is a different ball game altogether. Even before we are on the train they ask twenty times how long it will take to get there. Any answer of more that 12 hours is met with resounding groans....and a grumbling husband, so we ensure we only take short distance trains.  In the first hour, they have eaten all the chips, drunk all the soft drinks and have leafed through all the magazines we bought 'for the train' that no one otherwise reads. The girls watch some movie in the lap-top. No one looks at the trees and fields whizzing by. Only my husband and I follow the stations and the time-table. When the food comes the girls fuss, that is too spicy and this tastes weird. Actually their tummies are full and somewhat crampy (I suspect) from all the junk they had been eating! Then they accompany each other to visit the loo. MANY times. So by the time we reach wherever we are going, I wonder why we didn't just fly!

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