Its been many years now since I have stepped into a long distance train. With the advent of my flight to the US, the trains and its journeys within had become the thing of the past. To get to the airport, prepare to make sure you are savvy (atleast in India). Though I do respect decency and business travellers.
It takes anywhere between 1-2 hours to reach an airport in India if you have to leave from city center. If you are going to embark a journey for pleasure, you notice most people are dressed and perfumed to their best to the extent that either you have to shrink your eyes or cover your nose. Then comes the flight journey in itself. Ever noticed how much care the air hostess has to take care to make sure she looks good and the skirt is raised to the right level. Yes and not to mention the men who take pleasure in talking how much they looked into them and whose experience with the hostess was better.
That being it, being recession time is not easy for any one with the flight tickets growing foot souring prices. With seats getting ever so cramped and with no place for the kids to jump and play and to top it, no seats for kids who are below 2 , but you do end up paying for them. Thank god for the existence of the good old trains and its betterment with LALU. Jai Hind to Lalu and his involvement in making train journeys pleasant.
All I can think of now is the time of stressfull days of flights are over. Back to my journey which we as a family of 4 began on April 3 2009 , 7 PM to Kolkatta and reached on April 5th 2009 , 6AM.
We reached so early keeping the flight in mind. We were one hour early and were waitng for the train to come from the city station to the KR PUram station which was closer to our house. We waited and waited, looking at trains coming and going, fed the kids dinner sitting on suitcases and kept waiting for a train which was delayed by half an hour even when it had to leave from the city. Oh well.
We enjoyed our time in the station where every one looked at each other and smiled and did not have an auro around their heads and no perfums and no eye catching clothes. Simplicity for travel.
The trains stops for 5 minutes and yes, the coolie/porter quickly put the suitcases into the trains and we figure out our seats, just to find out we got 2 side births. The indians who have travelled by trains would understand. Damn, we had confirmed tickets, but expected 2 birth seats inside a 2 tier AC compartment. But to our luck, we spoke to the TTE (Train Ticket Examiner).
This is what he had to say " You did not come and meet me at the city station. If you had I would have alloted you better seats". Hmmm I thought, we need to please this guy now " Sir we did not know, we stay here close to KR puram, so with 2 kids... blah blah..." " Dont you understand my language, which language should i say i cannot do anything for you, said the TTE" " Sorry sir" We kept quiet.
He came back, while we rumbled and adjusted. In the mean while, when our mind was restless, the Railway Pantry Guy came in to take breakfast orders " 2 bread ompletteles please". Again rumbling how were are going to sleep with 2 kids on side birth. We looked around to see any empty seats, withing which time, the TTE, alloted us 2 nice full birth seats.
We thanked him and adored him. That was our beginning of the pleasant journey.
A journey, where I got to sleep with my younger son and the father got to sleep with the older. we would chat and laugh and tickle and go to sleep tightly with just enough space to manage each other :).
Morning came, at 5:30 AM the chai wala's would give a wake up call. Even if you are asleep, you have to get up " Chai chai, capi capi" " Chai chai, capi capi" " Chai chai, capi capi". I opened my eyes to look around that every one was sleeping and he was rambling " Chai chai, capi capi". WHY WHY, I want to sleep.
So we woke up slowly and woke the passengers who were sleeping on the lower birth. Woke up to see that there were many kids in the block. All the kids in the same age group as mine. The day started off well. The kids played, jumped up and down, climbed up and down, ran up and down while we relaxed and chatted with co passengers, who would duely talke responsibilty for our kids if they were troubled and we would do the same. It was like a small family.
Sitting by the train with our bodies swaying side to side and with the kids playing and jumping, all seemed to be a perfect. We read a magazine, ate, chatted, laughted and sometimes simply sat. The younger one took a nap in the afternoon, while I looked on at the train ceiling lying down thinking blank, while the older one played with the blackberry and the father was reading a magazine. It was so close to perfect.
A time when one can actually be oneself without the auro in the head. My older son would off and on say why the train is slow, may be we should go in a bullet train. Then we would have to say, bullet trains are only in Japan.
I am glad I made the concious decision to make the train journey, which enabled me to give my children a glance of the other side of the aura world, who have grown up to see nothing but cold, cleaniness, AC, planes, toys and more. They got to see, heat, dirt, AC, trains, no toys and more.