Sunday, July 24, 2011

Romance with the railways... the saga continues

Railways has always been a fascination for me and my brother since childhood. I think it all started with us living near the railway tracks in Kollam, Kerala (then Quilon) early in our childhood. I remember going to the terrace of our home in AG Nagar and watching the trains come and go in the Kollam railway station. It was quite easy during that time to recognise trains - especially the New Delhi-Trivandrum Kerala Express with its distinct yellow-green livery, Himasagar Express (Kanniyakumari to Jammu Tawi) with Blue and White livery, the Venad Express (at at time running between Trivandrum and Ernakulam) with its 2 double decker coaches. Unfortunately, the colourful trains soon changed to the drab brownish marroon coaches over the time and then to the present colour of blue.

My heart used to race when I read about the fast trains of France and Japan. I used to look for an opportunity to go near the tracks and watch the goods trains being shunted around. Our biggest break came when Dad decided to take us to Delhi and Pathankot to visit our cousins. Both of us kids were quite excited at the prospect of sitting in the training for about 3 days. And man, we enjoyed the trip. The highlight of each day used to be the pantry guys who used to bring all sort of lip smacking stuff. I got introduced to the North Indian delicacies like the Potato Bonda which I still look forward to have during any trip.

In those days we did not have double lines in our part of the country. There were only diesel engines. Electric engines were a far cry and it was quite difficult to imagine 2 parallel lines So, it was quite exciting to see faster moving electric engines and trains zipping in the opposite direction along the parralel lines as we travelled towards Chennai or Delhi. Our nearest station with electrification used to be Jolarpetai. During the many trips to Delhi, both of us used to keep awake on the first night of the journey to see the electric engines at Jolarpetai.

As we grew up, the excitement never faded. Waking up early or keeping up late to watch the train pass over big bridges in Vijayawada, Rajamundry and Dehri-on-Sone, looking forward for the bolis, vegetable cutlets and masala dosas in the Bangalore-Chennai and Coimbatore-Chennai day trains, waiting to buy Mango Jelly in Vijayawada, Kozhidode halwas in Trichur, lemon tea along in and around Asansol, Aloo Bondas in the Alleppey-Dhanbad express, surfing the youtube for snippets of trains in different parts of the world - all of them was quite normal stuff.
Angel with Shalom
in the Chennai Mail
Shalom drawing his selection of trains.
His favorites are the
Garib Rath and Rajdhani Expresses

After getting married, the relationship with the trains continued. Angel was posted in Palakkad and with me in Vellore, the relationship with trains got cemented. We used to alternate going to each others places by train. During our first pregnancy, the journeys continued and we used to wonder what effect it will have on the baby. The effect showed within a week after the delivery. We decided that Angel will be along with her parents with newborn Shalom for couple of months before she came back to Vellore. Shalom slept all the way from Katpadi to Tiruvalla in the train. He was just about 2 weeks old.
Charis enjoying time in the
Delhi-Ranchi Garib Rath
As Shalom grows, when I see the excitement on his face when the mention of trains is made - I know where it comes from. The best part occured couple of weeks back - we could not get train tickets to go to Chennai. So, Angel and kids decided to fly. After getting into the flight, Shalom insisted that he deplane and take the train. He could not find any reason to be in a flight.

Our second one, Charis is also not far behind. Although she is not as excited as Shalom about trains - train journeys does not bore her. She behaves quite well and knows exactly what to do. She insists that she eats pantry food. Nowadays, after couple of unsuccessful attempts of carrying packed homemade food, we find it easier and lighter with pantry food - both kids prefer that to whatever we pack. Quite a blessing for families like us who have to make at least couple of long train journeys each year.