Train of thoughts  

Posted by Praveen in , ,

Train set and match spied under the blind
Shiny and contoured the railway winds
And I've heard the sound from my cousin's bed
The hiss of the train at the railway head

Always the summers are slipping away

A 60 ton angel falls to the earth
A pile of old metal, a radiant blur
Scars in the country, the summer and her

-lyrics of "Trains" song by the band 'Porcupine Tree'

After a long time (about 1 year) I travelled in a train last week on my trip from Bangalore to my hometown Trivadrum. I've become fed up of those long journeys in the volvos where you have to sit and sleep in shapes as weird as 'S' and 'Z'. Also, the buses used to take a long time to reach the specified destination. Now, am happy that am back to travelling in trains, although procuring a ticket is a hard task which is a process that you have to initiate atleast 2 months before the journey. So, atlast last wednesday I got back into my love affair with trains. I reached the station 1 hour before the departure and then it was a long wait inside the half empty compartment. Some foreigners clad in saffron(No no, they are not from the ugly saffron brigade) and white were roaming around with books of epics like Ramayana, Bhagavatham, Mahabharatha etc. One of them came to me and started his lecture on Ramayana and Mahabharatha. After some minutes of patient listening, during which I was trying to control my laughter , I told him that I've read these books before. He smiled and said "Thanks. Hare Rama, Hare Krishna" which I found myself repeating back. I pondered over the irony of foreigners selling our own epics to us. After a long wait, my favourite sound of the train's long horn was heard and it started chugging along slowly. As it gained momentum, the faces of the people standing in the platform started to roll along fast. It reminded me of a film being rewinded. The film of my train journeys.
My first memories of train journeys are of the long hauls from Trivandrum to Kolkata(then Calcutta). For 3 years, we used to shuttle back between these places at regular intervals. A single journey meant 2 days of your life spent in a train. The entire flora and fauna of India would be on view as the loco snaked its way through the various Indian states. And taking along a naughty kid like me, who was such a nuisance, meant that my parents never loved these journeys. Same was the case with all the elderly people who by sheer lack of luck happened to occupy the same compartment as me. As I grew up, I always waited for an opportunity to travel in trains. From those days till today, there are some things which I find really special with travelling in trains in India.(For your info, that was just a show off dialogue. I've never crossed Indian borders, except in dreams :D ). I'll list out a few of those.
Bombay VT-India's most beautiful railway station

1. First and foremost, the bystanders- I meant the people, mostly innocent children, who stand and watch the trains with wide open eyes, as the train passes by their village. Particularly, I love those kids who never get tired of waving at trains. Some of them try to run along for some distance. A lot of them are so poor that they would never travel in this wonder vehicle which they see everyday.

2. The 'chaaai, kaaapi' calls- This is irresistible. Although the taste of the coffee and tea served at the railways leave a lot to be desired, the long tuneful calls of 'chaaaai, kaaaappi' is sure to make you drink one. And another amazing thing is, wherever you go in India, they sound the same that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was the same person selling tea in all stations across India.

3. The unknown- The places you see during train journeys are mostly those which are hidden from you when you travel by road. Most of the times, these are uninteresting. But sometimes, I've seen some of the most beautiful sceneries from the train windows.

4. The bridges- When the train travels over long bridges, its an exhilarating feeling. If you look down through the window, you will most probably see only water. You would never feel that the train is travelling on rails. And if it is early morning or late evening, you'll see the sun in all its glory which adds to the 'picture perfect' effect. A lone sailor on his country boat(common sight in Kerala) is an icing on the cake.

5. The people- The ones you meet during the train journeys, the ones that you share the compartment with. I've got some really good friends in these journeys. I've also met some of the most irritating people here. Still, its always a nice mix. Not tobe left out, some really beautiful gals. ;)

6. "aane ki sambhavana"- The famous dialogue that preceeds the arrival of the train. This has gone on to attain a legendary status mainly due to some real horrible PJs.(Keralites would know what am speaking about)

7. the "dhak dhak" beat- The sound of chugging of the train drives me crazy. I can spend long hours on journies just by listening to these rhythmic beats. Sometimes, it breaks into a 'dream theater' like off-beat. Thankfully, I haven't headbanged to it until now.
During the all- India train journey with friends

A small note one of my most special train journeys. A 15 day (almost) half-India trip during engineering with my classmates. Our journey route was Trivandrum-Goa-Mumbai-Pune-Hyderabad-Bangalore-Chennai-Trivandrum. We hopped from train to train as we were treated to the richness and diversity of India. Those 15 days will always remain in my memory. Also requiring special mention is the journey me and my friends had from Trivandrum to Guruvayoor on a general compartment filled to the brim. We even didn't have space to sit on the floor. All of us sat together on the floor near the smelly as hell toilet with no space to move. But, still we enjoyed the journey like anything. Same with the train trips with my band. These journeys are priceless when compared to a trip in the executive class of a boeing.
me and friends sleeping on the floor of a general compartment

So, thats my list. Do you have such favourite memories associated with trains? Share with me.

PS-checkout the "trains" song by Porcupine Tree. Its awesome.

Pic 1

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 30, 2008 at Thursday, October 30, 2008 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


train journeys - i hv always been in love with them... and that is my most common means of transport from bangalore to kerala.... most prolly will come bk to write a detailed comment.. nw Klueless4 hv hijacked me... :)

7:56 PM

The journey home is never too long
Your heart arrives before the train
The journey home is never too long
Some yesterdays always remain

You look funny in the 2nd last pic. You look 'balder'.

I've never crossed Indian borders, except in dreams

Lovely line, there! :-)

8:56 PM

totally loved this post...blore to kerela trains have an amazing early morning view.
But most of my memorable train journies happened to or from Hyd coz dats wer I study and a HUGE grp of Bloreans frm my batch used to travel together when we were in 1st year and booke our tickes on time.
Now we do all waiting list panga and keep beeging kids who have parents in the Railways to confirm it in the VIP quota.
Or jst take the bus - 's' 'z' shaped naps indeed.

10:29 PM

lovely read !!:)
point ! and 2 throw light on the actual India, which cannot be felt anywhere else :)
I posted a post recently with a similar title 'train' of thoughts !!:)
chk it out as to what I gotta say :)

11:08 PM

well written...i do agree with u that u tend to get the real essence of rural india when u travel by gets better when there are unscheduled stops at unexpected places...

11:20 PM

Train journey always fascinates me.. although I have not used any other mode of transportation for long distance journey...

2:10 AM


Train journeys had been an inseparable part of my everyday life since college days.. I used to spend hours in TVC just to see the trains comin n leavin... And the journeys..just too much enjoyment!

4:00 AM

train journeys are really great.. i loved your post...

2:16 PM

Oh I loved this post! Brings to mind my childhood.. :P! We had these bi annual trips down to our "native place"during the summer and winter vacation, from Bangalore, and the times on the trains were the hightlight, even if it was just a few hours...:)

Later with my own children, when they were really small, I used to travel, mostly just me and the kids, and I have always been indebted to ever so many co passengers for all their help in managing two really naughty boys :) Fortunately they did not bring much disgrace to our family lol!

What has always entertained me is the sight of the passersby, while travelling on trains, especially the little children.. and I always think of Robert Louis Stevenson's memorable poem, "The World from a Railway Carriage" as I travel by train :)

However, of late, and I suppose it comes with the years, lol, I suppose the wonder of travel has somehow worn off, though I still love to watch the passengers and their families on the platform getting ready for their train, the chai, kaapi waalahs et al.. :) :)

To repeat: lovely post!!

10:19 PM

now am also into klueless

@akhil corpus
dey...bald ennokke ingne public aayi vilikkathe..Njan athu olichu vachirikkuvaanu:D

yeh..its nice to have someone working thr..tickts at the last minute

ur post was real fun..hehehe

the unsheduled stops for those 'crossings' are sometimes the middle of a forest and all

train is the best for long distance journey..bus journey can be tiresome

now, u r really a train crazy guy like me!..spending hours watching


travelling with children is fun, but can be a real pain as my parents 've realised.
havnt read tht poem:(
and U r never too old to travel. watch 'bucket list' to get inspired to travel again;)

10:31 PM

Kaapi as in coffee? Lol
Then u shudve also mentioned cutles for cutlet :P

I wet to Baroda for a friends journey was blissful..

I guess its fun wen u hv the rite ppl accompanying u or if ur just alone..

10:33 PM

Who doesnt love trains:D. And hey i dint know u visited calcutta frequently.Whay was it?(The Sourav maniac inside me is curious:D)

11:53 PM

i dont like indian railways..specially their bathrooms...eeks..and platforms....

3:03 AM

Do check that link for the poem I told you about:)

And yes, you are right, about the wonder of travel.. :) But then again, with the right people I guess :)

10:06 PM

Aah! That India trip in trains and in local compartment sounds so tempting. :-) I want to make a trip to the northen part of India like this. :-)

1:39 PM

yeah..kaappi as in coffee...
cutlees..good one:D
travelling alone is sometimes a nice experienace..lost in thoughts

i lived in kolkata for 3 a small child...from 1 year to till i was four years old..and Sourav was playing gully cricket then:P

I haven't seen anything else, no other countries's railways..But even if I had seen it all, I would still say Indian railways rocks..its the numero uno. thr's a charm in that uncleanliness

read the poem..nice one..thnks 4 the link

yes..real tempting

4:23 PM

I see the makings of a real railfan in you :)
Read one of my previous posts.. called "From a fascinated kid to a ferroequinologist" to know more!

10:57 PM

Wow loved this post. Train journeys are all that you mention and more. Have been on them from the time I was a kid and that's way back in the Ancient Age. Have criss-crossed India quite a few times. Even now the rhythmic sound of the train makes me long to go off on a journey. And mind you I get to listen to it a number of times daily living where I do only a short distance away from a railway line.
My son used to be a 'train-freak'. He loved them so much as a kid that he wanted us to make drawings of only trains for him. Made us parents perfect (but bored) artists. He loved train journeys that he was such a good boy on trains, totally occupied that he was the envy of all adults with restless children in tow. Now of course he 'flies' trains are passe! :P

12:37 PM

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