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Train journeys , then & now

06 Jan '24
5 min read


 My train journeys commenced perhaps as an infant when I was brought by my mother from my place of birth , Mumbai , to Bangalore , the place where I was to grow up .

The earliest train journey I remember is the one my cousin and I took with my parents from Ooty to Coonoor . The tiny train had specifications written above the windows  on  how many could sit on each seat so that the weight of the  passengers was well  balanced.  Sometimes sitting beside my father and then jumping to sit next to my mother remains embedded in my memory , my Libra trait starting early , did not want to displease either of them .

Those two nights on the train journeys are still vivid in my memory when my mother took me to Mumbai for annual holidays.  Usually accompanied by my uncle since dad could not get enough leave , we had to change trains at Miraj at night when all one would want to do was shut eye and get swayed to sleep in the moving train . We always reached Miraj at night and waited  for the connecting train and then those fist cuffs passengers had with the ticket collector to find the  reserved seat , sometimes erroneously double booked , two or more passengers claiming the same seat turning into a nightmare.

Finally getting a seat , Amma and I on the same berth since I was still half a ticket with us both trying to get some sleep , sleeping with head to toe positions so we had enough space to get comfortable or sometimes Amma would lay the holdall on the flooring  of the train , the train gaining momentum slowly lulling me to sleep .

Each journey always led to a few anxious moments when uncle  alighted at a train stop  and was not visible for some time when the train moved out , my tears threatening to drop anytime fearing he had been left behind , a huge relief settling in when he came and sat on the berth after what seemed like hours , when all it was just a few minutes that he had been away .

It was much later in life , that the entire  railway line between Bangalore and Mumbai got converted to broad gauge and we didn't have these reservation mishaps , the journey time also reduced , the headiness that one felt for half a day after alighting the train with two nights on it , almost forgotten , thankfully .

Getting a job in Mumbai , had to travel by train to Bangalore on the annual holidays , preferred having the holidays annually since the thought of leaving home and staying away from parents and brother always , invariably brought me to tears. With a morose mood , luckily with a window seat allotted , I would most certainly not get up through the journey of 24 hours other than those mandatory bio breaks . When other trains passed in the opposite direction , there have been umpteen times I have wished I was seated in those going home  . Many times when the train shunted or took a few chugs backward I almost wistfully wished it would just back up to Bangalore !

We had many train journeys , the whole family travelling together , for an uncle's wedding with an infant cousin in tow . Those were days of restricted food items like sugar in Mumbai and officials came on the train to check if these were being smuggled from one state to another , the checking giving the adults accompanying us some anxious moments , as children we were just happy travelling together without a care of the adult world .

The ticket collector always suspected my half a ticket since I was always tall for my age , I even got questioned by one asking which class I studied in  !

The train journeys now have become far and in between , from sleeping on the holdall  laid on the flooring , progressed to travelling in a first class coupe , from sleeper class to air conditioned coaches , from carrying bedding in a huge draw string bags like the one a postman carried in the days of the yore to being provided with a sheet , pillow and rug by the railways . Times have changed ,  those dinners that we looked forward to , that an aunt brought at Belgaum where she stayed to buying dinner from the pantry on the train .

Change is the only constant they say ,  there have been improvements and changes for the better , miss the innocence of throwing coins into a river for some blessings in return through those windows we had to roll up , one having a glass pane the other with louvres so we got some fresh breeze  , the fasteners of the windows a challenge of speed so that we didn't feel a pinch before it shut or opened . The constants : passing green paddy fields , coconut palms , water bodies , the camaraderie between a huge family , friends travelling together , sharing food , laughter , loud chatter ,  giving reasons for this flasback .

The change , a super fast train , covering almost 350 + kms in four hours , skipping stations that you can't even read names of  .

We have come a long way from knowing that the tunnel that lasted 2 mins , the rain  blackened buildings meant we were nearing Mumbai to travelling in comfort , flying over the coastline checking out the buildings from atop !

The journey then , the journey now  , the comforts have grown , the discomfort seems distant , like it was in another era !



Category : Personal Experience


Written by Poornima Nalkoor