Travelling on trains always makes me nostalgic. It’s like that reset button. Brings back perspective into life. Today I’m travelling from Chennai to Bangalore. I’ve been to Chennai Central a lot of times. The first time I was here was at the age of 10, travelling from Patna to Alleppey. I think it was Patna to Howrah, Howrah to Chennai and then Chennai to Alleppey. Knowing the delays in trains from the east and north, we’d kept a gap of around 15 hrs between trains as a buffer and still missed our train from Chennai! I remember it was the time of the Sabarimala season and our train was full of black clad, bare footed swamis. I’ve been to Sabarimala twice and it’s an amazing experience.
I am travelling by the Shatabdi today which goes beyond Bangalore to Mysore. I drag myself and my strolley into the station- not that it’s heavy, but coz I’m sleepy. I look around and find that the electronic board still hasn’t allotted a platform to my train. Am I that early? My watch says 5.05 AM. Not much of a wait, to be honest. I search for a place to stand- too many people sleeping in the waiting area and the platforms. I remember the time I’d slept on a railway platform. It was in Patna- we were on our way to Darjeeling and the train was over 12 hours late. We put down a couple of newspapers, munched on some cookies that Mummy had baked and slept with the bags as pillows. Hehehe. Brings back a smile to my face when I think of it now!
Finally the platform number appears and I slouch to the train. I feel drowsy- had to wake up at 4. Just then I see the Mangalore-Chennai Mail pulling into the station. Another wave of nostalgia hits me. My family was in Chennai when I used to study in Surathkal. I’d taken this train many times, quite convenient- get on in the evening and reach by early morning. Ah the college days! 2 and a half months of summer break and 1 month of winter break. Can’t imagine when I’ll take such long breaks again! I plug on my earphones with Coldplay on them. I started listening to Coldplay during post graduation. Strangely it brings back a lot of memories from under-grad and even before that.
Another train pulls into the station, Guwahati-Bangalore. I feel some sort of respect for the train and the people in it for having travelled all the way from Guwahati to down south- a long tiring journey! I remember seeing the train to Hazrat Nizammuddin on the list when I was checking on the Shatabdi. I guess that marks my longest journey by train yet – Ernakulam to Delhi. Took around 3 days if I remember right. Then we had to catch a connecting train to Patna in a few hours. Hehe. 4 days travel on train to go from one place to another. Can’t imagine doing that again now with low fare flights available so easily.
Time to catch up on some sleep. I don’t want to be nodding off in my presentation scheduled for the evening. But then it’s the Shatabdi- the minute you start drifting to sleep, they poke you awake- nimbu paani, tea, wet tissue and what not(each item invites an additional poke). I give up on my attempts. I love trains. They really do calm me down. Seeing those faces and places flashing by. Those railway tracks shining in the sun and going by as a blur. I feel I’m really lucky that my Dad had a transferrable job. I’ve travelled on so many trains and so many routes – I can’t imagine how else I’d have seen so much of the country. On the downside, I can’t remember much from my school days. Just a couple of close friends from my 11th and 12th std days. The rest is pretty much a blur. But the journeys are clear in my head.
There are those moments when I disagree with Tolkein on “not all those who wander are lost”. But then again, these train journeys put me right back on track.