Railway travel exposes you to the best of the beauties, the local life and the worst of the nightmares. Out of all the things that give me pleasure, train travel is one. And mind not, because the AC carriages are not my favourites, for if it was not for the observation of those stranger lives, the sound and speed of the wind tiring the eyes, the boredom on those faces of the sleeper boogies, my father narrating different tales associated with the places passing by which he had stayed or visited once during his life which was one big travelogue in itself, telling about his knowledge on farming, the clear view of the sky without any filter of the glass, I wouldn’t have loved the train travels so much. When you are travelling the better coaches, you find your fellow travellers busy with their own work, or with something that can keep them busy all the while. But, in the sleepers, the monotony of sitting and the lookout for options to pass the time is interesting.
There have been some routine people and scenes depicting the lives of the common farmers. You reach a prominent station and soon after you get a couple or a group playing some not-so-common instrument with a very interesting music and singing some folklores and in restyrn for their entertainment asking for their pay. Then there is that sweeper who you would meet manyatimes during the journey…in just different bodies
but with the same expression and same attitude. He would have a small lot of garbage with him that he would be constantly sweepong ahead, giving an impression that he is cleaning the coach and for this service you need to pay him. Few kids in a very tender age of three or four showing some tricks and the primitive level of gymnastics are also a common sight in the Indian railways. The boredom on the pantry person’s face gies unmissed, repeating the same words ever again throghout the journey. The rail becomes the means of living for a variety, whatever meagre they may be generating. The thought about their familes surviving on this earning makes a chill flow down the nerves.
The extensive journey from one geographical terrain to the other exposes to the vividicity India is blessed with. But, the same journey have kept many a nerves tensed during travel, of fear of theft or accident. Also, with all the beauties one gets to see the tyranny of life. The train suddenly stops for signal issues and for next few minutes it is all you at a new place, living the moments as a spectator to the people passing by, some returning from school, some still working on the fields spread to the infinity till where eyes can see. Sometimes, this could be in midst of a jungle where to the fortunate ones a glimpse of the wild couple birds comes as a gift of nature. The childish excitement of witnessing a different world when the eyes open after the dawn, with different air, different houses, different vistas and different people.
Suddenly the vistas change, the train nears the denser populated areas, someplace like Delhi or Lucknow. The human expansion into the green boundaries now become clear. The opennes becomes a distant dream, sometimes the breeze is filled with that awful smell of sugar mill, or some other factory. At times you are welcomed by a destructive view of the miners at work while crossing through Jharkhand or Odisha–one such includes a big mountanious structure disected into half with the other half taken away through the same rail in big containers to fulfill the needs. At other times a view of a slum submerged till its knees in the rainwater or the dirty walls facing back towards the rails ushers a billion thoughts of hiw life flourishes through these dingy places. The poverty ridden and the population stricken India, surviving in the barely livable conditions is visible here. Perhaps the reason why Gandhij chose this medium to explore the inner roots of a country so wide, though others may opine the lack of road travelling options then but surely, to experience what life is like in the Indian sub-continent. At least this is what my innumerable travles into this vastland have taught me.