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Monday, September 23, 2019

Incredible Train Journeys-A Ride to Lord Krishna's Abode

The Charming train of yesteryears
The train journeys have a charm like none other. No matter how much you travel the hunger for seeing something new and experience the world as a passenger in the trains is insatiable. Every journey by the train is unique. In my forty-odd years of career, the travel in connection with work and my lust for travel took me on some incredible train journeys which are etched in my mind. When  I gleam through the sheaves of pages in my memory, the nostalgia takes better of me. I will now be penning some of these memories in a series of blogs in the coming weeks.
A scene at the  railway station before globalization
The earliest memories go back to my early school days when I along with my younger siblings undertook the train journey from Delhi to Mathura( The birthplace of Lord Krishna). It was our ancestral home, a distance of barely 150 km but looked like a long journey. The train station was bustling with crowds and appeared chaotic. The vendors were busy selling tea, pakoras and pooris. They were surrounded by a small mob of people jostling with each other to seek the attention of the hawker. The din of the announcements blaring, the children crying, and people scampering to board or disembark are still fresh in my mind. The train rolled into the station with a thundering noise and the steam engine belching out smoke like a tireless power plant at work. The sight of the huge furnace aglow with embers of coal appeared like a demon in the fairy tale as it went past before the train came to halt with a screeching sound of the brakes. A scramble followed as people tried to make way into the compartments, as some more enterprising tried to make way through the windows as the IIIrd class compartments did not have any grill in those days.  After a few minutes, the passengers managed to squeeze into the wooden benches devoid of the luxury of cushions. No one really bothered, as finding a place to sit was more important. A beeline of hawkers would soon appear selling a myriad of things ranging from chana masala, fruits, bangles and trinkets, magazines and newspapers, singers, even beggars and ear-cleaners as the train whistled and moved out of the platform, as the guard waved the green flag on the platform.

 As the train moved towards Faridabad, the sight of a few factories changed the landscape. The train stopped at almost every station as people ferried in and out of the bogie. My mom unwrapped the parcel of pooris and aloo and handed out making a small roll of the contents. A bite into the soft pooris and aloo bhaji with a dash of mango pickle seemed heavenly, as I looked out of the window and stared into the miles of green fields with the golden yellow Sarson(mustard) flowers at distance. The reverie was rudely interrupted by amber fly ash from the engine in the eye making me almost scream in pain. With a dab of water in cupped hands and spray on eyes things got better but not before a small blood clot on the white of the eye. It dampened the spirit only for a few minutes till the train reached Kosi Kalan, almost midway to Mathura. The samosa vendor was selling hot samosas along with spicy mint chutney and shouting at the top of his voice to draw attention. I looked at my mother and cajoled her to buy some. I handed out a One rupee note and promptly the hawker wrapped a few samosas in a packet and poured the mint chutney on a cup made of leaves(dona). One bite of samosa and next moment I was speechless as the steaming spicy potato stuck over the wall of my tongue, till a stream of tears came out. The agony was worth every bit except that for the next two days I was unable to swallow anything hot or cold due to a blister in the mouth.

Next, we indulged in the game of cards with a lot of argument and cheating that could possibly be done. A little girl who was sitting next to us kept reading aloud the cards held by my brother who was annoyed to no end. It was innocence at its best till the train reached Mathura in the next one hour. It was time to disembark and help in carrying our luggage to the rickshaw stand to hire a rickshaw. The rickety rickshaw took us home through a series of dangerous maneuvres in the congested lanes.

It was one of the many such journeys I undertook in the subsequent years on this route and treasure the memories of this journey to this date.


PS: 1. Images Kind courtesy Google
2. Next week I will take you on yet another interesting train ride.

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