How rightfully it is said that childhood memories remain with us for a lifetime .It becomes a part of us and we hold on to the good memories with great fondness.
I have always associated the word journey with a “Train journey” since for me as a kid holidays meant visiting our native place and the journey to the native place down south meant travelling by train for two days.
Today as I am keying in , once again my mind is flooded with the beautiful memories of travelling by the great Indian Railways. I loved to watch the changing landscape as the train chugged from one state to another. The dry arid regions, the lush green forests, the changing terrain, rivers flowing with current,the dry river beds, farms with crops swaying in the breeze , the night sky with millions of twinkling lights from the houses all visible in a single journey of 2 days!!.Isn’t this someway similar to the changes that occur in this “journey of life”?
As a young girl I would love to watch from the window the view after the sun went down and the night set in . As the train would speed ahead , no change in terrain would be visible except for the tiny innumerable lights that dotted the land ( light bulbs from houses) with cool air touching my cheeks. I would wish for the view to continue without a change. But that is not possible. Similarly only the good times cannot continue in life too I guess.
I spent my early growing up years in Allahabad and Delhi. Those were the days when vacations were meant to be enjoyed, play outside with friends instead of attending summer camps. We were actually like donkeys set free without any burden of studies during the entire summer holidays.
I have very fond memories of my summer vacations when we would visit our relatives house and Thatha, Patti & attai’s ( Dada, Dadi & Buaji) home in South India. Travelling by train all the way from Allahabad or Delhi to Trichy involved changing trains at Madras , ( I would not prefer to write Chennai but would instead write Madras as that is what it was called then!) and taking another train for the onward journey to Trichy. It used to take three days to reach our grandparents home.
As kids the “chook chook gadi ” travel excitement would commence the day the tickets were booked. We are three siblings and we would immediately announce as to “I will sleep on the upper berth” . The one who announced first would always want the upper berth . There would also be announcement of ” window seat for me ” !.
The ticket used to be of thick cardboard and small in size , ( like the one that pops out in a coin operated weighing machine in a railway station ). It was also a time to look forward to weighing oneself in the coin operated machine at the station and read the forecast with an actor/ actress pic on one side. That card that would come out of the machine mentioning the weight will be preserved by us!!
A surai ( earthen pot) too would be a part of our luggage . Travel was by normal non ac coach and we never ever felt of cribbing or grumbling about the heat.. Amma would carry idlis with molaga podi smeared on it, lemon rice,tamarind rice, curd rice, vadams ( homemade fryums) and pickles in a stainless steel carrier. The food used to be consumed in the order of their shelf life . From the second day it was food available in the different stations that were bought. Water was refilled in the surai in a station. When we drank water Amma would say” please do not sip the glass”
We never bothered about using a hand sanitizer, dettol soap or mineral water. Life still went on without any illness.We would play a game of cards, ludo, snakes and ladders . The co- passengers too would become our friends and play with us. A bonding happened during the course of the journey.
I loved to watch the changing landscape as the train chugged from one state to another. Somewhere without our realizing it a learning process was happening simultaneously. We were actually visualizing the physical features of the land , be it plains,rocks., rivers, plateaus, valleys,vegetation and like a sponge every detail would be getting lodged in our memory.
Even we learnt about food, snacks, fruits that were special to a particular place when the vendors would hop in to sell their items at different places. It was also a learning about the different outfits worn by different people in India during our journey from north to south or even vice versa.
Getting to learn how to use the Railway timetable book was fun. We would keep asking Amma and Appa as to ” Which is the next station ? We learnt about big stations being called as ” junctions”.We would pass by tunnels,rivers, thick vegetation. , bridges.Throwing coins into the river was another fun activity that we looked forward to. The innumerable trips up and down the ladder would be so thrilling when trying to reach from one level of berth to another.! Amma would say ” Be careful, lest you break your bones at the begining of the journey!!. “
It was a time to bond, learn, spend more time together , play, watch the world outside.The ” Jayanti Janata express” ( Allahabad to south) and ” The Grand Trunk Express” ( Delhi to Madras) have left their imprint in my mind.On nearing Madras , we would sing the song ” Madras nalla Madras” & would keep asking Appa as to how much more time was left for Madras central station to come.
Our relatives would be waiting at the station to receive us and would give home food packed for our onward journey to Trichy. Sometimes it even meant changing station in Madras.We would bid goodbye to the surai in the train itself which had helped us in giving chill water to quench our thirst in the summer heat. From Trichy it would be a bus or bullock cart to the village where my grandparents stayed.
“Tea” sounded this way ” chaaya , chaaya ” & also for some soft drinks it would be “coool drinks , coool drinks ” with a tring tring sound made by the bottle opener on the glass bottles.! There is lot to write if one starts remembering the travel experiences by good old Indian Railways !! A Coolie also was an integral part of our journey as we would always lot of luggage . Having graduated from trunks & holdalls to suitcases & now with further graduation to strolleys , a coolie’s assistance in carrying luggage is not availed by everyone anymore. He would walk fast with luggage on his head and someone was required to match his steps to trail behind him.:-)).Amma would say “Keep an eye on him as he will walk fast” . Searching for our name in the chart stuck near the door of the coach was another thing to look forward to! During teenage years apart from our names one would also try to look at the chart to check if someone of our age group or a youngster was a copassenger!!
We never felt the journey tiring or boring. These are memories that are etched in my mind and I cherish them.
At the same time it sometimes makes me wonder if the current generation is missing something like this? Because for them vacations and travel both have taken a new different meaning!!
Travelling as a family was so much fun.Not that travelling now is not fun with my family, kid . But there is a difference- I am a parent now with a kid. The role reversal is definitely very different I believe.In this journey of life I do intend to undertake more fun filled journeys with my loved ones .I can definitely be a kid at heart if not by age to relive those moments of childhood once again!!