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The Indian experience is incomplete without a train ride. Here is a tongue-in-cheek take on the Great Indian Train Adventure!
Indians are not much into adventure sports or thrill-seeking. We don’t have an ‘India’s Funniest Home Videos’ with people getting hurt right in the crotch or skate boarding on hand rails and taking a tumble. Most Indians aren’t into such a sort of thing I guess. If we did have a show on similar lines, it would have videos of Indians crossing the road, hanging from over-crowded buses, or Indians trying to board a local train. Our everyday lives are so full of adventure that we don’t go seeking thrill rides or jump from cliffs unless we are feeling extra adventurous.
Recently, we have seen the phenomenon of the bored middle class Indians who find their weekends mundane and not Facebook ‘like’ worthy. This crop would love to have a bungee jumping cliff within a two kilometer radius from their house, because who in their right mind would willingly battle traffic on the weekend?
To these novice adventure seekers, my advice is to revisit the general compartment of the Indian trains. A journey by the Indian general compartment is cheap and full of adventure right from the moment you try boarding the compartment. Some Indians do travel this way on a daily basis and never complain about mundane weekends.
Some Indians do travel this way on a daily basis and never complain about mundane weekends.
First, you need to find the perfect spot which is not too much to the right or left. It should definitely not be in the middle, as the middle is where the commuters will alight and you might be alighted before you get a chance to board. Having a spotter helps, they can help you push into the compartment and also safeguard against any last minute change of mind that you might have when you see a large able-bodied woman wielding a big handbag alighting right in front of you.
Some veterans might suggest dropping a handkerchief or magazine from the window before boarding to reserve your spot on the train, but mostly, you might be left without a kerchief or magazine once aboard. In case you plan to try this trick, do carry a spare handkerchief aka hanky to wipe your hard won sweat once you are inside the train and find your spot occupied by a man pretending to be asleep.
Once inside, you have plenty of choices for seating. The most favoured seat is on top of the luggage rack as people will rarely ask you to scooch and make space. The next available option is the regular seat which will always be full-capacity. You also have to be wary of any young child who might be asleep on the luggage rack and hasn’t yet got a hold on bed-wetting.
The other options are – the floor on which you can lay your magazine and sit, or near the toilet. If you have decided to embark on this adventure during the holiday season then do practice sleeping while standing before you go ahead. Usually, if you manage to snare a window seat, you are in luck as you will be pressed against a human only on one side, and you have the option of sticking your nose out of the window from time to time.
If you manage to snare a window seat, you are in luck as you will be pressed against a human only on one side…
Always carry dry snacks/ food for this journey as you might not be able to use the restroom as much as you like; it will most probably be occupied by a family who could not find a seat elsewhere. If your destination is the last stop then alighting is the least of your concerns. You will automatically be alighted with zero effort on your part.
But if your destination is somewhere in the middle of the train’s route, the author advises some rock climbing lessons before you embark, as you might have to traverse above people’s heads holding on to luggage racks and hand rails. The alternative is to change your destination to the last stop. Never be tempted to board the luggage compartment of a train as you might have fish baskets dripping brine over your head and that can be very difficult to get rid of from your clothes and hair.
As adventurous as an Indian train ride can be, the network that the huge Indian train system covers is amazing. Also, no matter how little money you have, you can travel in India. This is not something we should take for granted, as it is not always the case, even in some developed countries.
So, once you have brushed off the dry snacks from your hair (that fell from the guy sitting above you), you can recount your adventure trip to your friends. You also will have the option of posting the pics live, as the trains have wi-fi now!
This post was first published here.
Pic credit: Image of an Indian Railway train via Shutterstock.
A traveler at heart and a writer by chance a vital part of a vibrant
Lovely post, Anju! I remember the thrill of train travel as a child – despite the crowded coaches, the smelly loos, the moongfali on the floor – nothing could beat the thrill of looking out of those windows, making new friends on the train and 24 hours of jumping around between berths 🙂
Ah! yes.. the comforts of a second class compartment and witnessing the vast diversity of India from one state to another through a small window!
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