Routers and wi-fi are our new lifelines. Last month, when a stray message came from our internet service provider that we could enjoy high speed once we restart our router, my teenage daughter wanted to check that out. She jumped on a stool to reach out to the power switch of the router (We have fixed it quite high on the wall) but found herself a little short of it. She looked around and asked me to fetch her a racket that was lying around. While handing her over the racket, a whole “train” of memory started for me.
The whole scene was akin to the token exchange process, that was historically prevalent in Indian Railways, as part of its signaling system. It was always one of the fascinating moments for the onlookers. Check out this video if you want to jog your memories and definitely if you do not know what token exchange is.
Indian railways are intertwined into the lengths and breadths of this vast country(1/3rd of USA), both geographically and culturally. Don’t ask millennials, but anyone older will get emotional while talking about the trains. For most, trains are associated with long-distance journeys on vacations. As children from towns, one of the early fun activities for us was to put a coin on the rail in front of an approaching train and watch how in a moment it flattens it out.
In my childhood, I and my brothers were always very excited about train journeys. The loud but rhythmic sound of the train was music to our ears. The modulations of sound when a train crossed a bridge or a tunnel were so entertaining. The contemporary mimicry artist always had the train sound act in their kitty.
Now the steam engines will quickly be associated with air pollution, but back then the very huffing and puffing engines were at the center of the whole attraction. I remember sitting in the window seat despite having occasional spouts of smoke and ash from the engine on me. It was always fun to look out of the window when the train navigated around curves when you could see the whole train from the window.
Although India is now close to having only one gauge, we commonly got to travel in trains of different gauges back then. The broad gauge and meter gauge trains had very different types of rocking! Even with blindfolds, I would have rightly guessed the gauge of the train I am on.
If it was so exciting how could the film industry miss it! There was a belief that if a movie started with a train scene it became a hit! The legendary movie of Indian cinema, Sholay starts with a train scene. One of the memorable action scenes from Sholay is on a train. Here is an excellent collection of Bollywood songs on trains.
As I grew and had my own family, one of my favorite train travel bookings was to book a coupe of four, preferably that did not have AC to open the windows at will. I also taught some of my adventure techniques of sitting or standing in the open door of the coach to my kids.
Although now more often in the interest of convenience and saving time, I end up using flights, I have plans of deliberately boarding a train, just to be on it.
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(featured image: Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV from Pexels)