Romanticizing Train Travels!

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Darjeeling, West-Bengal,India - December 15, 2016: Darjeeling railway station, West Bengal, northeast India

A crooning Shahrukh awaiting the arrival of his childhood crush while the lady is travelling back in his life in a Konkan railway train or a Kareena running haphazardly chasing the train which  always eludes her or the suave Saif strumming his guitar in the toy train which goes past the picturesque hills and serpentine tunnels enroute to Darjeeling..Cinema has always romanticized trains which have been a part and parcel of our lives. Or is it the matter of past with airtravel and international sojourns taking prominence. Whatever, train journeys always evoke nostalgia with discreet memories of each one of us attached to it.

However distant it could be, it is difficult to erase the memory of a steaming Kadak kulhad chai which the boy passed on hurriedly from window lest the train chugged away, many a times collecting his due while running along the train. Equally bright are those glimpses of hot pakoras or samosas served casually on old newspapers. Who cared how they were served? Then there were countless hawkers doing the rounds inside the overcrowded compartment selling seengdana or bhelpoori or moth and the journey used to be one big gastronomic delight.

Still very fresh are the tinkling sounds of cold drink bottles interrupting the most sound nap ever taken with cold gush of breeze swaying the soul within. Soon it was time for train travel to graduate to air-conditioned bogeys. No more cool breeze to blow hair incessantly but then it was comfort never seen before.  The reading lights mounted for every berth and a magazine holder reeked of sheer luxury! I still don’t leave an opportunity to travel by a ‘Shatabdi’even if it means taking few more hours. It’s like a picnic on wheels with gourmet food (by railway standards) served intermittently. No air travel can compete with the sheer rawness, simplicity or nostalgia a train journey offers.

As they say, travel is the best form of education. I can vividly recall the innumerable train journeys undertaken, passing through various states, peering through those window grills the passing trees, the soil, the paddy, and the people. The soil changed colours and so did the crops, the attire of people, the landscape and some peculiar food unique to a station. Those were the days to strike conversations and even share meals with complete strangers and thats how the journeys concluded. Even bidding formal goodbyes to these strangers, who used to be train fellows, irrespective of their caste or creed. All these are extremely pleasant memories of not so comfortable or sophisticated train journeys. What lingers on is trust, the setting sun behind the eucalyptus trees, the wafting aroma of Poori aloo packed in a simple tiffin…..simplicity and purity always remain fresh just like all those  train journeys!!

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