Thursday, August 31, 2006

I love Indian Railways!!!

Seriously What a random title? But then when you realize how much Indian Railways has affected my life you will understand it too...

My first memories of a train: Me standing with my parents at Trichy Junction waiting for the train to come into the platform. I was restless and I am sure I was irritating my parents as well by running close to the edge of the platform and putting my head out to see if the train was coming. I was excited that I was going to Chennai for the summer vacation...

The early 80's were still the days of the chu-chu train or the steam engine...Diesel engine would come into the picture of the rural southern town of Trichy in a couple of years...So as I was peering my head out...A loud "baaaaaammmmmmmm" sound came from afar...scared the crap out of me and it saw me running back to my mom...I was in near tears and holding on to dear life...As the train pulled into the station it gave out another loud "baaaaaaaammmmm" and that was it...I hated the engine for good...to me it seemed pompous and loud...the way it chugged itself into the station with a black cloud of smoke rising above its top...it seemed indomitable and arrogant and haughty...Well it deserved to be I guess...afterall they take people and goods from one place to another and without them India would stop functioning...

Diesel Engine: My brother's were going to Chennai to play some Tennis tournament. I could not go this time and they were going alone for the first time. Vaigai had recently started running between Chennai and Trichy and it was the fastest train in the south those days (pre-Shatabdhi Days). It covered the distance in close to eight hours and was on-time most of the time...I was excited and went with my parents to drop my brother's off at the station. I was also happy to see different kind of seating for the first time...previously they were always sleeper bunks...but now they were seats...for day travel only...I was unhappy that I could not go with them but nevertheless jumped up and down to my hearts content...and pulled everything I possibly could without being fined.

My brother's came back from chennai and told me that the train made almost no sound...and no soot flew into our eyes if we peered out of the window or door...my brother's and I used to try and look at the engine from our window in the train as the train negotiated a curve...and most of the time land with black particles in our eyes from the bruning coal of the steam enginer...but Diesel almost eliminated that...I was very eager to travel in Vaigai and when my turn came I was excited...

First time to see compartments connected, food sold inside the train, a cafeteria inside the train, a library inside the train (they even had Tintin and Asterix)...this was my favorite and my mom allowed my brother and I to stand near the door too...WOW! I loved trains then and I love trains today...There are no more libraries inside the train...thanks to people who started stealing books...but trains still connect every nook and corner of India. Buses are cool...but trains are another league altogether...the beautiful village scenes, hills, rivers, mountains, and valleys they cover and the perfect view they provide us with all still remain fresh in my mind...and with every passing village my mind wondered what was happening behind the placid scenic village that just passed by...

I liked it when Vaigai used to rush past stations where people waiting would look like ants in seconds. The train had the haughty look as if telling everyone that it ain't gonna demean itself by stopping at such a small station...I always loved the feeling of the train nearing a big station like Villupuram or Virudhachalam or nearing its final destination, a myriad of tracks appear out of nowhere and somehow the train always knew which one to take to go to the correct platform. The train's slow and caution speed informs us that the fun ride is almost over...Sad!

I can remember running besides a train waving at people inside and also remember kids waving at the train as we rushed through suburbs and villages. Even today I close my eyes and hear the sound of the car driving over the expansion joints and try to feel like I am back home travelling in Vaigai for the first time...Gone are those innocent days when my brothers and I used to fight for window seat and upper berth...Gone are those days when we used to eat curd rice after the the train took off from Trichy Junction before falling asleep. Gone are those days when I used to read a book with the little book lamp. Gone are the days when I used to throw coins when the train corssed Cauveri or Godaveri, but with me I carry a memory so fond that I owe Indian Railways a lot for making travelling fun during my childhood and grown up age too...and for literally shaping my future...for these same trains took me to college and back for almost 3.5 years...I miss eating at the VLR (Vegetarian light refreshment stalls) at Tambaram during the evenings and eating the hot kadalai (ground nuts) that were sold in the Electric Trains...Trains oh wonderful Trains...I miss you more than anything!

13 comments:

Megha Bansal said...

very beautiful anu, and it brought back fond memories for me too..being the motion sick me, train travel was the only form of travel that was enjoyable and "puke-less"!!! hehe...
the part i miss the most is the first sight of any city, i was always curious to compare cities based on their slum population and stench, coz railway stations attract alot of both...way sound weird, but i would always love to do this..

and then i miss the food! oh my some of the best omelettes, samosas, chai, poha, bhajiye are sold on railway stations!!! now my mouth is watering :)

libraries in trains??? i never remember this...sad that it was discontinued :(

satyam4u said...

good anu....nice thought there...even i like moving in train and fortunately i get to go in train every two months to my native place vizag...yeah the memories of the past are so sweet that we have to nourish them....a sweet thought...i am wondering little things in life make a big impact..i still remmember when i first time got into an A/C 2tier with my family.good thaought anu thanks for remainding the godd old days.....dil hosefull...
regards
satyam

Perspective Inc. said...

Loved your post... bought a wave of nostalgia...!
:)

Seashells said...

nice post anu... I travelled from Hyd to Delhi every summer and that used to be an exceptionally long journey (40 hrs initially but came down to 26 hrs as the trains got faster) but i was never bored... I had my books for company and i loved reading with that personal reading lamp on... small pleasures in life... and oh, i would never be half as good a player in cards had there been no train journeys... plus i also enjoyed most of what you wrote in your post... good times those were...

Praveen said...

nice post on trains..I never knew that they had libraries inside....
Unfortunately i was never a big fan of eating food thats sold inside...(yeah..a coffee or tea is an exception)
yes i miss those days going to college by train, chit chatting throughout..

Anu Russell said...

megha and praveen,

yes Southern Railways did introduce a library in both Vaigai and Pallavan Express...but thanks to our darling fellow desis...they never got the books back and eventually discontinued the service...

I have to say that the food in Vaigai/Pallavan used to be good...They had the best cutlets...mouth watering!!!

Satyam, My favorite part is going and standing in the compartment connections while the train goes over a river bridge...very fun!

Thank you Perspective Inc, for visiting :)

Seashells, Ya books were the best company and so were people around...how many rail snehams...It was a social leveller in so many ways...

I am so happy to see that so many of us have great memories/experiences with our Indian Railways...It is absolutely and undoubtedly the best in the world...Don't care what is there in the Europe and AMTRAK has nothing to say for itself anyway...GO IR!!!

skylar said...

Anu,

Can you make your posts shorter, so I can quickly check it out ;)

Anu Russell said...

Skylar,

I am sorry but I write for my satisfaction...if you have time read it fully...else sorry dude!

Skylar said...

Hi sweetheart...

what you could do though is, highlight the key lines in bold :D

Anu Russell said...

Darling...

I will try...promise :)

phantom363 said...

the choo choo engine had a personality. at the start of the journey, it had various tones shreaky whistles. you would know that the engine had changed (which happened every 4 - 6 hours) by the different whistle tone.

it left the platform, with a big sigh, then came the gruf gruf mode, like the manual labourer intent on digging the hole. once the optimum speed was reached, it settled down to a soporofic kada kudu kada kudu rhythm, which reflected the joints between the rails.

and finally the arrival. once again the speed slowing. it entered the station with a majesty and speed which suddenly decelerated to zero. and then a big tired sigh. end. :)

nothing of that sort in the diesel or the electric loco. :(

Anu Russell said...

Yyup Phantom,
I agree with you. The personality of a choo Choo train was simply beautiful and modefrn trains just lack that!!!

Isis Panthea said...

Hhh...Indian train journeys...Who wouldn't associate with them! The vendors, the berths, the strangers, the swaying...everything...love each and every bit of it...I used to fight to get on to the top berth...From the journeys in the small maruthi 800, a jourvey in the train sued to feel so spacious and fun! And ofcource As seashells mentioned, used to love that 'personal' lamp and small pull out table...And as a child, used to wonder what that flip-cigarette disposal bowl is for....over-night journeys are my favourite...getting up in the morning and feeling the fresh breeze from the passing villages...The morning chais...I've never travelled a lot in Trains, but I cherish my every travel...I should've probably posted this up in my blog as a new post...my posts are not any longer anyways!