My love affair with the railways started when I was just a wee lad of five or six years when our uncle used to visit us from upcountry by train and bring with him stories of his journey. My first trip by a train was in a train like this.
That trip was when I was nine years old and took me with my uncle and aunt with whom I was then living, from Madras (now known as Chennai) to Bombay (now known as Mumbai), where my parents were living. It took all of two nights and a full day of wonderful travel and I can still remember the journey as though it was just yesterday. Subsequently, I have made many train journeys, but the first one sticks out in my memory for being the most memorable. The particular smell of the railway, the coal fired engines, the peculiar noises made by the running wagons, the noise and bustle of Indian railway stations, the outside of the railway stations with its attendant rickshaws or tongas or bullock carts, all are part of my growing up process and experiences, which sadly many young people now a days do not have access to.
In the beginning of my sales career, I had to undertake almost all my journeys by train and in those days, the early sixties, we normally traveled by over night trains and stayed at either the railway retiring rooms or just used the waiting rooms to bathe, change and work the market during the day only to catch another train in the evening. The nodal point of most of my travels used to be railway stations and I got quite friendly with many waiting room attendants, station masters and other staff members.
My mother used to worry about my running to catch a train and falling or have other accidents and once I started to fly, I used to joke with her that I will not try and catch a running plane or jump of a flying one.
There are many stories that I can write about individual journeys, some thrilling, some funny and some tragic. Each etched in my memory like as though it happened yesterday. I have used the metaphor of friends made in a train journey to be forgotten after the journey in many of my training programmes. I have also used some of the things that I had observed during journeys to illustrate some point or the other.
So, when I come across anything about railways, it always gets me nostalgic as this article in the Economist did. I just could not write about my own fascination with steam engines and the railways till I have been reminded to by my friend Sandeep, who too is a railway buff.
Most of Indian railways use Diesel or Electric engines like the one shown above, now a days and almost all our steam engines have been mothballed or sent off to the Railway Museum in New Delhi. The site is worth a visit to those interested in the railways.
The Indian Railways is one of those positive legacies left behind by the British which has survived, been expanded and now part of the life line of modern India. I for one, would prefer to travel by train whenever I can spare the time. I love the railway food, the tea, the vendors and just about everything else. I still love everything about it and take great pleasure in just watching trains go when I am stuck at a level crossing or from the top of a bridge over a railway line. I love to receive and send off people from the Pune Railway station. I am hooked to the smells!
I am sure that there are others there who have similar affinity to the railways and look forward to some interesting sharing from them.