Monday, August 28, 2006

Musings on Rails - 2

Long distance trains in India usually comprise second (sleeper) class, first class and AC coaches. The second class coaches are usually packed beyond capacity with people without reservations and often leave no room for even a trip to the washroom. While the air-conditioned coaches are a boon in the scorching Indian summer, the flip side is that they do cut one off from the surroundings and thus take away most of the romanticism of the journey. Since I was travelling in winter I had chosen a first class cabin. Hence I enjoyed the relative privacy of a closed cabin while retaining the ability to interact with the world outside. I shared my cabin with an elderly couple. They apparently had ‘been there, seen that’ and held no fascinations for the views outside.
As the train sped through the darkness I stole a glance at my watch. It indicated that it was almost time for dinner. I have always had a weakness for the meals served by the Indian Railways. While most Indians would nod disapprovingly at this, I seem to sustain the liking each time I travel by train. Soon the attendant arrived with the trays loaded with packed meals wrapped in aluminum foil. He handed mine and moved on. Placing the food on a spread out newspaper I sat down to enjoy a hot meal consisting of rice, dal, puris, egg-curry and some pickle. The elderly couple had spent most of their journey dozing. They woke up once in a while to eat a few morsels of curd-rice from a huge steel bin (for want of a better word) that seemed to have an unending supply of it. After staring disapprovingly at my plate for a while they got their bin out again. After eating a few spoonfuls of the by-now-evil-smelling paste of white they were back in dreamland. And all this before I finished my meal!
The lights in the cabin were switched off. I had my face next to the window and felt the cool breeze blowing on my face. The whole train was silent, as most of the people were asleep. It was a strange solitude, with a thousand other people in close proximity. It was the type of solitude that I did not want to break by thinking even. The train sped past a station without stopping. For no particular reason this brought a smile on my face. I have often stood at a station and watched a train zoom past. Hence the feeling of being in the train itself while others watched was a source of joy, again a residue of some childhood thrill.
After a while I shut the window, leaving a tiny crack open. Placing my pillow below the window I curled up under my blanket. The first-class and AC coaches have these reading lights. They have a flip open metal lid that doubles as a switch and also gets real hot in no time. It was by this light that I started reading the novel I had brought along. I cannot explain why but it feels just great to read by this light. Soon I was finding it hard to keep my eyelids open. I have often thought that the motion of the train is like a giant cradle and that probably explains why I usually sleep like a baby when on one. Thus, while the protagonist of the novel was out saving the world, I drifted into a peaceful slumber, rocked rhythmically by the speeding train.


Blogger 666 said...

I love the food as well. Its been a looong time I had a long distance journey with the Indian Railways

8/29/2006 7:10 am  
Blogger J@$m!ne said...

i hate the food they serve on trains.. especially the one cutlet with beetroot in it!!! u remember tht!!!!

9/11/2006 4:17 pm  

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