indian railways

weekly photo challenge: nostalgic

indian railways

the indian railways has been a recurring theme of my life. i grew up in mumbai & then pune, both of which are around 1300 kms away from my parents’ native city of chennai. when summer creeped up on us we would all head down to chennai, then madras. 20 years ago, this was a long, exhausting 24 – 30 hour train journey and my mother would take on my elder brother (by 2 years) and myself all on her own! i wonder now how she managed… or well, lets just say we were very well-behaved!

… those were the days when we couldn’t afford the AC class so we traveled by sleeper 2nd class. open compartments with big windows, lots of chatter and tonnes of dirt. my brother and i would remove our footwear and run around climbing to the top berth, swinging between the berths on the supporter coils, running to and fro in the compartment…

… and without the air-conditioner, it would be so hot in the afternoons that we would almost sweat out the dirt from the sleepers onto our hands…. yes, exactly as gross as that sounds. as kids, we didn’t seem to mind.. as an adult, i shudder even to think about it…

… those were the days when the train food was bad (it still is) and not worth spending on and a test of a true homemaker was the range she produced for dinner in the train… so we would carry packed food along with us. at every meal, my mother would wash her hands with water we had carried as she believed ‘train’ water was dirty, then take out a clean tea towel, spread out the boxes filled with food, and serve us in individual containers. we were told to wash our hands before eating and post washing it, instructed ‘DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING’, till we had finished eating…

… those were the days when you tried to use the loo as much as you could on day 1 as on day 2 it would be too dirty and smelly to even enter (its much better now, went by train from mumbai to bangalore and was clean throughout!)

… those were the days when you had limited options to entertain you on those long journeys, so i read, fought with my brother, begged my mother to take us out to stand by the open door…

… those were the days you laughed every time you passed a station with the vendors yelling in loud but hoarse voices, ‘caufee caufee caufeeeee yaaaa…’ (coffee vendors) and ‘sanddhwichh… … sanddhwichh… … sanddhwichh’… and you would know by the change in the food available that you were changing states and moving from the west to the south…

… those were the days when you slipped into a city, you slowly saw the landscape change, the people change, the food change and the language change… and you had arrived…

… those were the days when ‘basin bridge junction’ was where you could get stuck for hours twiddling thumbs and feeling frustrated, knowing that you were just an hour from chennai.. it was a ‘bottle-neck’ junction…

… those were the days when you waited for the long hours to pass from the time someone got onto a train till they reached… there were no mobiles for hourly updates. you just waited…

the railways is still a great way to travel and environmentally friendly. there are a lot of ‘if onlys’… with words like cleaner, greater frequency, on time, safer, easier to get a reservation and many more featuring on that list…

for me traveling on one of the world’s largest railway network covering 115,000 km (71,000 mi) of track over a route of 65,000 (40,000mi), with 7,500 stations and 1.4 million employees (source: wikipedia) is amazing, even today… despite all the mess (and rats) that accompany you!

indian railway

18 thoughts on “weekly photo challenge: nostalgic

  1. Very nice! Traveling by the Indian railways is like drinking at a theka.. it has a charm and romance but is also really dirty!


  2. OMG, did I do all that!?
    I think you left out the Spiderman (or was it Superman) jumps you both used to do across the top berths and how you used to hand from the cord!
    And the hours you’d spend, sitting on the open window, holding on to the bars, as though it was the most comfortable way of travelling!
    The only problem was we HAD TO GET two corner window seats ^_^ every time we travelled!

    Nice Bhavani. I enjoyed reading this. .

    amma. .


  3. thanks 🙂

    and you did that, and more. i let you off-easily, just you let us off easily!! ashwath is blaming my dirt phobia on these train trips with you 😀

    ahhh yes, must have been superman jumps! hanging i don’t remember… remember the spitting on people from above. how did we!?

    i don’t remember the bit about sitting at the window, must have been quite young to have fit on that tiny ledge! i do remember the major fights for the window seat…if there was just one!


  4. Trains…they are to be partially blamed for my passion of travel. So many memories, sweet (falling in love) & sour (getting caught for smoking & fined…the last 100 bucks i had) memories :D.

    I believe sleeper class is the best, more interactions and stories happen there unlike AC coaches filled with food & fart smells 😉


  5. lovely post bhavani..i can totally relate to this..window seats were a must for me and my sister too! and then there was this thing about getting off at EVERY railway station had no choice really, he’d take us out at stations and get chai and snacks for the family..garam chai and pakore at agra cantt! wow!


  6. yeah.. that need to get off at every station… always with my dad too… as moms are not the get off at a station kinds! and i remember having to really reach for that first step at those odd, remote stations while climbing back up… and that quick second of panic that i wouldn’t be able to pull myself up in time 🙂


  7. Nice one Bhavani! train journeys can generate so many memories and this piece am sure connects with a lot of people as it does with me. The first time I travelled by train, I could feel the ground moving underneath me, for an entire day after reaching our destination 🙂


  8. hahaha… awesome! yeah that regular motion makes you feel like you are still going somewhere even once off! 🙂

    thanks indrani…


  9. nice one, think the best was sitting on the window sills with our hands out against the wind!


  10. nice one Bhavani. brought back a lot of memories.. especially those of swinging from one berth to another thinking of ourselves as so brave haha


  11. thanks bharat… and when it caught speed the wind on our hands would be crazy. loved that… i used to use it to dry my hands after a meal too 🙂

    thanks arundhati, we had super powers come on! we just outgrew them as adults… 😀 and its amazing how everyone has such similar stories about trains and themselves… we all did the swinging, running around etc… hope the next generations have train stories, as planes are a rather boring way to travel na?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s