Chuk Chuk…

A traveler am I and a navigator, and ever day I discover a new region within my soul
– Kahlil Gibran

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The multi wheel carriages running on two tracks carrying many dreams, ambitions, sadness, love, apprehensions and what not that a human being could go through has always been a fascination for me even in this flight era. Someone recently at office asked me as I shared that I will not be at Office for the following week,

He: oh!! so you are flying off on Friday??
Me: No.. Catching the train in the evening..
He: Really, it is a long journey.. 20 hours.. It will be tiresome. You should have caught the flight, save time.
Me: (Smiling) Oh, I did not think it that way. Yeah it would take time but I would love every moment of it with my family. It is full “FAMILY TIME!!”.

He was not sure, what to say after that and we both had a good laugh..

It’s really a treasure trove for me every time I get started with my train travel plans.

Right from the moment, I book the train tickets, the wait and the anticipation is on the rise. Anticipation for the remembrance of childhood memories, a sense of freedom and a desire to meet and talk to strangers.

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The Indian Railways, is one of the longest and the most complicated rail networks of the world. From the first train that got launched in 1853 when am sure, people would have been looking at it with awe and admiration then to the latest high speed trains that are getting experimented from Delhi to Mumbai and many. The awe and admiration still remains the same. The network today runs over 115,000 Kms across carrying millions of passengers daily. There are many known and unknown interesting facts that the Indian Railways throws up.

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Technology todays has helped us avoid the jammed up railway ticketing counters but the fight to booking the tickets still runs high. Can’t complain when you have more than 13 lakh tickets being booked in a day through IRCTC portal. Just imagine the amount of traffic that IRCTC would be facing for these bookings.

As I have grown over the years the accessibility to AC coaches have become a part of life and the travels are becoming more and more comfortable. Having said so, I do miss those lovely moments when I would wake up to the sound of a chia wala (Tea vendor) or the smell of a hot snack at any railway platform. The beauty is that, each station has its own brand and popularity. I remember once catching a local train from Sambalpur to Bhubaneswar years back, and the train stopped at Boinda station. People jumped off the train as it came to a halt to have the very famous local bara and Aloo chop (Vada & Potato balls). (I am already  salivating as I share this.) This station is a junction and people literally have their breakfast in the morning as the train halts for 15 – 20 mins. Post the breakfast is the hot cup of tea on those small clay pots which are now very common in the Eastern part of the country.

Or the Bread Omlet at Vijaywada station as the train to east from Chennai halts in the morning hours. Am sure, each of us have a wonderful connection with many of these stations. It makes you feel closer to home.

Well, the pantry services is no different experience which one goes with. Now the services have improved and are way better off, though a long way to go. Train journeys tend to become gastronomic journeys too. Remember my childhood days when my mom would pack up tiffin boxes and snack packs for the travel to last for 18 hours. The moment the train leaves the station, there is an auto trigger for the hunger to kick in. So what, if I had had my breakfast or lunch or dinner just before we left home. 🙂

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Enjoying the breeze

The longer the journeys is towards home, the more the impatience as the destination gets closer. I tend to move myself away from my seat and stand at the door. The fresh breeze hits harder as the train chugs along. My mind pushes the train harder to fly on those lovely tracks as the rice fields fly past me. During this month’s travel, I was standing with my son at the door (who was there for the first time) and I could see the excitement in him and the nostalgia that it created for me. Off course one needs to be cautious and careful but this today has become a part of life no matter if the train is long distance or local train. The freshness that this experience leaves is heavenly.

As a child going in the sleeper class coach during rainy season was a delight. I would be chasing the rain drops as they would crash against the shut glass window pane and run down to meet the other water droplets. Dreams get created and smiles tend to appear at the corner of the lips.. then and even now it does so, no matter how old one gets.
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Indian Railways, with what ever shortfalls that it has.. it does not matter once you are on the train. Someone rightly said and I have seen it happening, “It is a beautiful journey where strangers meet and become friends to part again and may be to meet again”.

There are so many stories that one can go on and on. There is an unending list one shares in these journeys with not only the passengers but also the caterers, the TT, vendors at the station. All hoping to have a moment of fleeting emotion to be shared with.

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Train Bridge over River Godavari

Rightly said and with all love, I do connect with the same tag line of Indian Railways,
“Lifeline to the nation”

Every journey is worth living for!!! … Can’t wait for the next trip….

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Travel Scare – Perceptions!!

It was my first time travel to Europe and more so to fashion and cultural hub, Paris. As usual a lot of my friends had given me a cautious warning about the thugs and petty thief prevalent in Paris, more so you are all alone there…Dup-500

“Be careful about your passport and money”

Oh boy!! I was almost clutching and checking on my pockets for my passport and purse the moment I landed at CDG airport. Felt being foolish and stupid doing that… Anyway, the tape recorded had started playing and I was dancing to its tune. I found out about the metro and got in. The moment I sat down, it seemed everyone was waiting to snatch my little money and the passport. As the train chugged along, I was distracted by the beauty of the nature outside and i stopped playing the record. But with every stop, it would come back.. “Do you see that white guy looking like a thug?? That black guy, that asian.. oh boy!!”..

Dup-452As the train stopped at “Gard du Nord”, I stepped out with my luggage and tried to talk to someone, who outright said, “No English” and I lost in French translation.. blinking.. Someone, spoke to the cops and made my way out of the station. As I stepped out, I felt I was back in India, with the litter and beggars stretched out. I held my luggage tighter after zipping up my jacket… I even avoided making an eye contact with any one, till I realised that my GPS was out and what worked was only the map that I had printed out with the route.. But, “Which is north and east, the paper could not move like a compass”.. Grr, Sid… take hold of yourself and ask!!” That seemed to have woken me up somewhere, and I started asking every passerby… after some five attempts one guy seemed to know english and he helped me… I literally started running through the deserted lanes… the words kept coming back again… “Your PASSPORT, your MONEY”… After running for close to 1 1/2 kms, I reached the nearby metro close to the hotel I was to check in. And that place was swarming with people who were trying to sell cigarettes to things that seemed inappropriate.. Couple of them approached and I ran as if I was on a mission of being invisible and not to be traced.

Dup-480Well somehow I managed to reach my hotel and once in the room, took stock of what had happened and why?? That late evening I again stepped out and just wandered around the streets. Realised that

  • I was over-reacting. Yes I needed to be guarded but not to the extent of panicking. I was asking for more trouble.
  • I lost out on enjoying the space around me and the beauty of the place. I had some moroccan food that evening that I did not even notice.
  • While returning back, I realised how beautiful Gard du Nord station was. I paused and took some pics, soaked in the beauty and walked towards my train to CDG..
  • I have a choice of saying no, taking action rather than playing simply to the tune of my head, which seems looking for trouble rather than looking for some beauty around.

I must say that, I really learnt the choice that day and it helped me in the next few days that I stayed and roamed around the place.. It is amazing!!! more was the Choice of clearing the scare… that is more perception driven than reality.

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