Choo-Choo: travel tales

Has it ever occurred to you that there could be a Platform 1 and ¾ at the Trichy station, and if  you ran through the wall beside Vasanth Bhavan you would find yourself standing on another platform with a steam engine whistling and waiting ?

Off to where, you ask. Well, someplace nice, I hope.

This curious thought sprung up the last time I arrived at the Trichy Junction, at an unearthly hour.  This led me to think about how integral train travel is to the life of any NITTian.  Most of our journeys are unplanned and require the expertise of tatkal booking. This fact is much appreciated when you manage to book a Rockfort tatkal ticket, extremely popular train, that receives around a lakh of bookings in the first minute. So, once you challenge the odds, book your tickets and pack nothing to take home, you’re set to go.

Train travel gives ample of time to dwell on our thoughts. After you board your train, preferably with a hot cup of Aavin coffee and a Lays packet, you feel you’ve got all the space and time in the world. Of course, this special happiness is marked by the customary fight for an upper berth and the TTR’s disbelief at our ID.

According to me, there are two type of travellers, some of us are group travellers; we feel comfortable staying up till late, chatting, gaming and doze off just half an hour before the train enters the station. On the other hand, there are people like me who are strongly inclined towards travelling alone. Alone, left to your thoughts, you experience ordinary lights in different dimensions. Let’s say, the other morning as the train rolled into the station. In all its glory and light work, the Trichy Railway junction stood like a majestic emperor, unabated, strong and tall. It may seem ridiculous to draw such a contrast, but the next time you’re awake while the train approaches the station, you’ll perhaps appreciate the complexity and grandeur of the image I had witnessed.  Another intriguing thought I realised was the perfect act that the monsoon rains and the smell of earth play to us, one of  bubbly sister and the endearing brother.

Apart from such refreshing thoughts and ideas, train travel is always stocked with a plethora of amusing stories. Take the rattling of the train, it is a pain in the ass, literally. Every time someone misses their step, while walking or climbing down the UB, it’s painful to watch, but when it happens, I plunge into an uncontrollable fit of giggles. Hmph. Sorry, some people never learn, I guess.

While the rattling can make train travel extremely annoying for many of us, there are some who adapt to this sway with such grace that in a minute, they’re asleep, like a baby. However, some people sleep too much. Here’s why I say so. It happened that a friend of mine came across a man who snored like he was having panic attacks, I mean, he seemed breathless while snoring. He continued with his animated sleep, unperturbed, in spite of the jabbing and to the alarm, of the sleepy co-passengers.The snoring is extremely creepy when the whole AC compartment is eerily silent and there’s only this commotion.The friend in discussion here, made a quick exit from the compartment, almost ran for dear life.

Just like this snoring sleepman, train travel holds many an element of surprise. I’m not just referring to instances where someone pulls the chain, or you get to witness a fighting match between two passengers or,  where you lose your seat to the unreserved folk, or losing your ticket. It could be anything. I talk out of experience, a lot can happen.

As the train moves from its start to its destination, the delightful chug chug sound, the cool breeze blowing through the compartment, the lone light burning brightly, the whispers heard throughout and the struggle of sleeping without a pillow, complete every train journey.It’s a unique experience, introspective and memorable, it’s a special escapade, and best discovered by self. So, it’s not the start or the destination that stays , it’s the journey. The choo choo train is or has been every child’s favourite toy and there’s a reason why it’s still a favourite for many of us.

However, every journey comes to an end and upon reaching my hostel room, just like the bread that always falls on the buttered side, without the slightest doubt I can affirm that this orderly is bound to happen.

I knock on the door and wait.Usually both my roommates hear the knock at the door and wait for either one to respond. Thankfully, before I start wailing, one roommate opens the door. She looks bleary eyed at me, gives a curt nod and crashes back into her bed. I drag the luggage in, sit down on my bed, put the phone on charge and lean back to get some sleep.

And then, my roommate bellows from the other end of the room, ‘Hey, I thought you should know, WiFi wasn’t working in the night and hot water isn’t coming either!’. ‘Cool, Peace’, I mumble back. As I place my head on the pillow and slowly fall asleep, the alarm rings at full volume.

The alarm is snoozed and my roommate misses her first hour.

 

– Shruthi Srinivasan

 

Feature Image courtesy: Pinterest

 

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One comment

  1. Yours was too good. Just imagine in sixties a journey with a steam engine haul, those days the Sencotah fast no 109 used to take nearly 14 hrs to chennai and still was called fast. Then we had another train known as Boat mail linking Egmore to Pamaban to connect to the boat for srilanka (then Ceylon) and it Used to take nealy 11hrs to trichy. When u get down u will be covered with coal dust. Should u look outside while travelling sure to get coal dust in eyes. These trains used to stop at designated places for filling water, coal etc and also for passengers Tiffin(Idly kaapi) etc. T Above all no reservations. There way four different types of accommodation. Viz First, second, inter and third class.In some trains sitting arrangement was parallel to tracks(Not perpendicular like now). Then in stations there used to be a cart with water , for giving water to travellers Porters were yet another. The moment reaches trichy town , srirangam fragrance jasmine and sellers will be overwhelming

    Ultimately u get down at Trichy junction there will be many horse drawn carts. Taxis only ambassador and may few will be there as luxury ride

    *Regards*

    *B Arunachalam*

    Liked by 2 people

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