I always prefer a train journey to a flight unless inevitable,because firstly,the train is at ground level and any mishaps need not always prove fatal.But mostly,I love train journeys since they afford me the luxury of idling away a minimum of twenty hours by the window(if I am that lucky).Just staring at the passing landscape,gazing at the star studded sky at night and feeling the caress of the breeze feels like heaven.Of course,your co-passengers are a pivotal aspect of redeeming this luxury.If a bawling two year old decides to make the window seat his throne,there is really very little you can do about it.
My journeys to and from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad take twenty four hours if the weatherman gives us the green signal and more if not.Earlier,we used to travel to Hyderabad only for special occasions and the summer vacations.But ever since I enrolled in a university over there,my sole self has been making these journeys.And it is really a liberating feeling to travel alone amongst hundreds of strangers.When you are on your own,the entire onus of packing,getting sundry things ready,reaching the station on time,boarding the right train and compartment,and most importantly,ensuring the security of your luggage as well as yourself is on you.All the aforementioned features make you feel important and responsible.
No matter which class you travel by in a train,there are some quaint details which almost refuse to change.The innumerable hawkers,chai wallahs,coffee wallahs,chai and coffee wallahs,people selling an incredible variety of eatables,drinkables and even clothes.These people roam about the whole length of the train with a sense of cheeriness and optimism which is quite hard to believe.Watching them urge the passengers to try out their wares or wheedling them to sample some of their eatables almost moves you to compassion.There is a whole world inside a train compartment.People of all shapes,sizes,color and religion can be found inside one.Their mannerisms,little quirks of personalities,their eating habits and way of addressing a fellow passenger are amusing and entertaining to watch.
Beggars traversing the length of the train ceaselessly,waiting for some kind hearted soul to drop a few pennies into their boxes,are another sight to behold.Some are maimed,some blind,some have hapless children tucked into their arms for garnering more sympathy.But there is one rather disconcerting feature about them.As far as my experience goes,almost all the beggars have powerful voices and sing really well.Their vocal pitch is incredible to say the least.If groomed properly and given enough exposure,there is no doubt that these people will go far.”What a pipe dream!” exclaims my inner voice.And I shut up.
There are cerain pitfalls too.Like,when you are travelling second class,the entire compartment filled to capacity,and you also have a couple of kids who keep throwing stuff down from the top berths to any unfortunate heads they see down.It is also beyond horrible when it starts pouring outside,the train is forced to halt in the middle of nowhere and you are stuck in a compartment like I mentioned above.Before you know it,the entire floor is covered with rain water which is trickling through the ill maintained window grills.And along with the rain water float bits and pieces of hair which the buxom lady sitting across you just combed,maybe the half eaten pieces of biscuits and peanuts which are the generous gift of the brats sitting above.Your stomach churns but what can you do?
Trains will come and trains will go.All of them crammed with thousands of folk,each with his own story.The kind of camaraderie and sense of belongingness you experience in a train can never be the same anywhere.Go,hop in.