Thursday, February 7, 2008

Memoir of travel by Indian Railway

There had been innumerable train journeys, some are memorable ,most of them are forgotten without a trace ,as lightly as the tickets are tossed away in the trash or sewer near the railway station.
There are times when you are forced to travel sitting near the bathroom due to vagaries of travel plans.
Worst are the journeys through the North Indian plains during winters in unreserved compartment. The bogie is packed to all available space and its only a metallurgical marvel that the walls of the compartment are held together. The endurance of human spirit never ceases to amaze. The routine spectacle of the local gentry traveling squat on the roof of train through the dusty villages during my childhood is no more seen, this may be due to the overhead electric traction. Due to chill and frosty wind gushing through the train during winters all exits are closed leaving little or no exhaust. And! then the revelry starts, a middle aged man, wrinkled and weather beaten f ace puckers his hand folded around other and lights his beedi,this leads to a cascading effect and outcomes several more beedis.With little or no air circulation, the entire bogie is filled with the pungent stench of beedi which masks the stale air of human expiration,
The pressure cooker like situation is only relieved when the train reaches a station an d several bodies go through amazing contortions anatomically not possible in normal circumstances and exit door is opened for some fortunate souls to wriggle out and escape to life.However,it quickly gets back to the same state very soon after the train moves again.
By the time you reach your destination after 12-16 hrs of travel, you become a fit case for assisted respiratory therapy, the skin is pale and ghoulish. You suddenly find yourself aged by many years.
The air around the railway station which normally is the most polluted suddenly appears to be crisp, clean and pure. You inhale deeply and quickly and hyperventilating drop at the back seat of a waiting taxi.

We swear that ,never again we will venture out thus,yet we do this again and again.