Tuesday, April 15, 2008


It doesn't matter how often I do it, but travelling on trains has a charm that's completely the spirit of travelling. Look at it any way you like, but airports. are. boring. There's simply too much stuff to worry about for you to relax.
Trains - are an escape. It's the feeling you get knowing that now that you're in, you've done all you can; responsibility is abdicated. It's not your headache anymore, and the next 12, 24, or 36 hours are a delicious anticipation, relaxing, snoozing, sleeping, reading, chatting time. Both coming and going, 'coz when you go, there's the holiday to look forward to; and when you return, it's the thought of turning your friends' faces green with envy.

Even looking at a screen evokes so much emotion, so many images; the station, the search for seats, what kind of people you'll be travelling with, chances of meeting single pretty young women (happens more often than you think!), watching the scenery, the quick hop-off and water-refill at the 2-minute stops at midnight, that ciggie at dawn on a completely unknown, middle-of-nowhere station listening to the birds, the smell of hot samosa and chai, the balancing act when you take a crap with the ground beneath your ass moving at 105 kmph, everything.
Destinations. Airports, everywhere, are airports. Air-conditioned, sterile, and filled only with 2 kinds of people - harassed personnel and harassed passengers, all thinking of what happens in the immediate future. Stations are so much more... relaxed. You see someone sleeping in an airport, and you're glad you aren't him; chances are, he's missing a flight. On a station, it's watching a slice of a more calm life. Wishing you could do that, too.
Stations have character. Sight, sound, smell, sensation. Sealdah is a termite nest smelling of fish. Step out of Howrah and watch the ferries loading up on the Hooghly, and slowly easing off. CSTM is like a gigantic roaring people-factory, processing migration by the kilotons. Karmali is a bird sanctuary. Madgaon is an afternoon siesta, or an island of dryness in an ocean of pouring rain. Bilaspur is an omelette-bread snack. Mughalsarai is a 5 a.m. chai. Ratnagiri is the sound of silence. Kalka is a dew-wet ice-cold stop to bring out your jackets. Shimla is brilliant, crystalline air and jagged mountains. Prayag is dusty heat and the smell of cows. Kalyan, Liluah, and Naini are wake-up alarms, prompting you to put on your shoes and pack up your luggage. And so on, so forth...
Trains have another huge advantage. They're a transport, and a hotel. So what if you can reach your destination in 1 hr 15 mins, when you need to immediately go to a hotel the minute you land. In trains, you can nod off and have the best sleep of your week.
Still the first choice... IR rocks!

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