Recently, I took a train from Mumbai to Surat (a distance of 250 kilometres) and back. It was a day trip. I spent nine hours for the two legs of the journey. Ordinarily, I would have travelled in either first class or air-conditioned chair car. But since this was a trip done at short notice, the only confirmed tickets I got were in second class. Considering that most of my travel is by air, these train rides in packed second class compartments were a very different experience. I let the mind roam as I sat in the train. I had my writing book, mobile and iPod for company. This Tech Talk is as much about the train journeys as it is about the thoughts that crossed my mind during the travel.
I have had a long-standing fascination with trains right from childhood. I dont know why but even now there is no better sight than a train gliding across the tracks with the countryside as a backdrop. Perhaps, it was because I used to go to Pune often and those are the memories I have. The train to Pune and back is a delight. The train goes through the Western Ghats and the beautiful views as one emerges from each of the 26 tunnels are a joy to behold. In fact, I even remember playing a lot with toy trains when I was young. So train journeys have always held a special excitement for me.
As Ive grown older and business has taken over my life, the time for a train journey has vanished. Most of the travel is by air. Even the Pune trips are now done by car. And so, as I made my way to Bandra Terminus to board the 9035 Up Inter-City Express to Surat early in the morning, I couldnt help but be a little excited. The four-and-a-half hour train ride was something I was looking forward to.
Every once in a while, I like to put myself in different situations. The train was going to be one such experience. So, I wasnt too disappointed that I did not get first-class or chair car tickets. Had I got those tickets, the train ride would have been more like a plane ride. I would have taken a few books to read or perhaps even my laptop, and immersed myself in that for the entire journey. But given that I was going to be sitting in a packed second class compartment, even though I did have a few magazines and a book, I didnt get to them. I was fascinated by what I saw and with the thoughts that crossed my mind.
It helped that there was very little room to move once I sat. While it was a reserved compartment, in India, that means very little. People are a plenty. So, once I sat, I barely moved. I took out my (paper) notebook and started writing thoughts and ideas came by.