Most of you are probably familiar with Paper Boat’s latest campaign on the “Great Indian Train Journey”. The first time I saw it on social media, I ignored it. After a few days, it popped up once more and I ignored it again. Today, I finally saw the entire video. It immediately brought back memories of my own childhood train journeys, and I thought I’d head down memory lane for a while. Following are the major things I remember from my experiences:
1. Preparing for the journey
I would always be full of excitement in the few weeks leading up to the train journey. Regardless of how long the train journey would be, I would make sure to take a novel and a drawing book along. My grandmother would pack all the food, and my grandfather would pack the luggage. I would just jump around excitedly and draw pictures of ugly trains with hideous smiling faces. Finally the day would arrive and it was always an exhilarating experience to see so many people at the train station. Buying food from the hawkers right before getting on the train was another fun activity.
Favorite train drink: Frooti
2. Start moving
After settling into the train, my grandfather would put all our bags up or under the seats. The moment he did that, I would feel like taking out something. But, before we knew it, the train would start moving, and this would be the best part of the journey. I would scamper over to the window and peer out excitedly as we left all civilization behind and headed into the unknown.
Favorite train novel: Agatha Christie’s “Death on the Orient Express”
3. Sleeping on the upper bunk & getting spooked
The first time I had to sleep on the upper bunk, I was terrified I would fall off. Climbing up and climbing down was completely fine, but how was I supposed to not fall off during the night?
On one of the journeys, I asked my grandfather, “What if I fall from there? Is it going to hurt a lot falling from this height?”
“You will not fall! Don’t worry.”
I wasn’t assured obviously. So, I decided to take matters into my own hand. When it was bedtime, I climbed up and surrounded myself with some clothes, water bottles and the blankets I wasn’t using so that they could guard me against falling. However, half-way through the night, I woke up and felt terrified because I remembered a spooky train story ! I clambered down and fitted myself into my grandmother’s bunk and spent the rest of the night there.
4. Crossing over to another carriage
It was always a terrifying experience to cross over to another carriage. But also so much fun every time I accomplished it. Every time I would wait to use the bathroom, I would see the train tracks flashing by below the gap between the two carriages, and feel that the gap was getting wider and wider. The moment I was convinced that it would finally open up and swallow me whole, thankfully the bathroom door would open and save me from that fate.
5. Train food
Do you feel hungry on train journeys? Like, all the time? Well, I do. I remember how we used to carry packets of chips and biscuits to have during the journey. But, the moment they were opened, they would all be consumed in minutes. And, whenever the food-seller came by, we always had something or the other to buy. And the smell of train lunch or dinner is guaranteed to make you even more hungry.
Favorite train food: Marie Biscuits
6. Scrutinizing other passengers
It was always fun to scrutinize that grumpy old uncle who would constantly be reading the newspaper or the naughty child who had definitely thrown a paper ball at me when I was looking out of the window. Then, there would be the really large families who would be playing board-games and I remember I always wanted to join them.
Favorite type of passenger: The “much-traveled soul” who would go on about his many journeys across the world. It was always fun to eavesdrop.
7. Feeling terrified of the tunnel
The tunnel was another scary experience. Every time the train would pass through a tunnel, I would hold my breathe till we emerged into the light again. It used to frighten me every single time. But, I loved coming out of the tunnel and emerging into light.
8. Looking out
I would just cling to my grandmother’s sari for a large part of the journey and just stare out of the window. The train would pass by houses and I would see people working in the fields or just going about their daily routine. I would get a glimpse of a baby crying in her mother’s arms, a group of children playing with pebbles, an old man staring at the road, cows grazing in the fields and once in a while, a rainbow!
9. Annoying my grandparents
Yes, it was also an opportunity to annoy my grandparents with my inane questions:
What happens if you jump off the train? Will you get really hurt or just a little bit?
10. Reaching the destination
After all of that, we would finally reach the destination, and it was always fun to jump right off the train directly onto the platform, rather than using the stairs. And, go on to explore a new place and make more memories.