Trains were a major part of my life as I was growing up. School holidays meant visits to the grandparents that could take as long as 40 hour or more by train with a few changes thrown in for good measure. In those days flying was not an option for middle class families. My father’s transferable job meant we could be in any corner of India. Considering India is one third the size of Europe, the distances could be huge. For instance the distance between Delhi and Bangalore is around 1288 miles, the same distance from Cologne in Germany to Lisbon in Portugal.
I remember these journeys for the range of emotions they evoked in me – sadness due to separation, excitement about the upcoming holiday, anxiety about paying the chai-walla (tea man) through the window of a moving train, heart-break on seeing little children begging on stations, peaceful reading for hours and the pure joy of watching the landscape change every minute.
About 9 years ago I started using trains again, nearly everyday to my delight. They still warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face. I enjoyed the nostalgia and romanticism that came over me every time I boarded my train.
How do I feel about trains now?
The trains are still what they were.
But my position in relation to them has changed.
I still use them but it’s not easy.
I try not to hate them but it’s hard to like them.
Now they are nothing but a mere practicality.
An inevitable reality.