Friday, May 9, 2008

"Chuk-Chuk Gaadi" - Memorable Train Journeys

Whoever said that all train journeys are the same must've travelled with their senses shut!

I'm not a very train person simply because the toilets are pretty sad and I end up just sleeping. But I've been fortunate enough to have taken some interesting train journeys, both in terms of the trains I've travelled in and the experience of the train journey.

Here are my 5 most memorable train journeys (in random order)

Toy Train

If I'm right, here are just three operational toy trains in the whole of India. One in Assam, one between Neral and Matheran (Maharashtra) and one in Ooty, Tamil Nadu. A toy train isn't one where you'd find mickey, sponge bob, gijeo or barbie (I wish!), it simply is a train that runs on narrow gauge and is propelled by burning coals.

When dad got posted to Ooty, we arrived at Mettupalayan-the last train station at the base of Nilgiri hills-from Vizag. To reach Wellington (housing the Defence base)-13 kms short of Oooty- we choose to take the toy train over the usual bus or hired car that'd set me dizzy on each bend!

As the toy train arrives, there is a mad rush for tickets. People even book their seats with handkerchiefs! We were lucky to get tickets and soon enough set off for Wellington. The toy train runs at its own leisurely pace. A healthy human can match up its speed while jogging! Whisteling, hooting and smokin' through the lush forests, bends, peaks and falls, it finally arrives in Wellington.

The train ride is charming and very old world. Remember Saif Ali Khan singing Kasto Mazaa(Parineeta) in the train? - well that's a toy train, but the Assam one and not the Ooty one!

Remember SRK doing Chaiya Chaiya with Malllaika Arora Khan atop the train? Well, That's the toy train I've been raving about!

Jamnagar-Mumbai (saurashtra mail) - 'Alone in the Train'

When we do something for the first time, we're a little scared of how it would go. I was scared too when I decided to travel by train! (Duh! not because I'd never been in a train before, but because I had never taken a long distance train journey alone!)

This particular journey was perhaps the only one where I did not sleep (even not so soundly at night). This was perhaps the only one where I actually observed the people around me, in minutest detail, simply because there was nothing better to do!

Read the whole article on how I travelled alone in the train here

Defence Special - Wellington, Ooty to New-Delhi

It was the summer of 2000. Dad's 11 month course at DSSC, Wellington has come to a close. The end of a certain heaven was here. Our neighbours, friends everyone was moving, that too to completely different cities. The parting was hard, but unlike any other parting thanks to a noble sounding Defence Special Train.

Every summer-around first week of May-a special train runs from Mettupalayan all the way upto New Delhi. The train charters through 6 states, and after 4 long days reaches Delhi. Dad had booked tickets for the four of us and our beloved Doggie- Donna. We did have an option of air-travel, but we choose the train simply because this was no ordinary train.

Our boogie was perhaps used as a hospital on wheels during some war. Instead of he usual compartments with a narrow gangway and 6 and 2 seats on either side, we just had two seats on each side of the boogie. The whole area between the windows/seats (berths) was the gangway where 3 people could pass each other without having to push and struggle!

Now the fun part. Unlike attached metal ladder to climb to the higher berth, we just had two movable metal ladders, one for the berths on the left and one for those on the right. If you happen to be the unfortunate one on the top berth, with a rising urge to pee, you'd certainly be in for trouble. Two options would be open- either to jump off the berth or to scream till someone else on a lower berth wakes up and carries the ladder to your berth. This particular phenomenon was a cause of a lot of inconvenience along with a lot of laughter!

Not all compartmnets were spacious like ours. Some has a dining table and cushioned seats to seat four people, while the others were the standard one's that we see so often. This compartment was very popular with taash-addicts (card-game lovers) like me, simply for the comfortable seating and the ability to look over the cards' of others.

The food was prepared in the train pantry. No hawkers were allowed inside. But that did not deter the foodie in us for the train had one too many stops!

Donna seemed lost at first, but she began enjoying her hide-out in the gangway that joined another compartment and the toilet to our compartment. Unaware passengers were in for a shock for they heard the sudden bark and jumped! Aside from the lack of hunger and mobility problems, Donna also enjoyed the journey.

As we neared New Delhi, the crowd in the train thinned down. Since we got off at the last stop, we had the opportunity to enjoy every mood of this memorable journey.

On second thoughts, I'd never have liked to trade this journey for air-travel!

Mumbai-Ratlam

There was some far-away-relative's wedding in Ratlam. My parents weren't going, but I insisted and tagged along with my uncle, aunts and cousins. The summer was in full form and we had to do with travelling in sleeper class, simply because the journey was short, the fare over-priced and the event-not so grand!

Food is a big part of Indian weddings. Food poisoning isn't so uncommon either. This uncoomonity hit our stomachs hard. Returning from Ratlam, most of our stomachs were acting weird. The initial pain, loose motions and smelly hiccups gave way to something, grander, more grosier in scale.I refer to it as fountain of vomit!

It was almost night. We tried playing cards, but giving in to the uneasiness I decided to sleep. Climbing the metal stair to the top berth, I fell into a slumber...until a gush of liquid pushed out of my mouth and right in the middle of our three-tier sleeper compartment. Some of the stuff clung to the walls, some to my aunts and uncles.

I cried in embarrassment, fear of being scolded and pain. I wasn't alone.

Shortly after, my cousin followed suit and the whole compartment smelled nothing short of hellish. Poor aunts and uncles had a sleepless night as they cleaned the vomit, while we lay mum on our berths and prayed another fountain would not erupt!

When we remember that summer, that wedding and that train journey, only one word sums up the experience 'ewwww!' (as in 'yuck!')

2 comments:

aj said...

preeti...the train between neral and matheran is also a toy train...so that makes it 3...not 2...

Preeti Datar said...

Hey aj, thanks for the info. I'll make the correction :)

& thanks for visiting!

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