Sparrows on the Rail
Travelling on Indian Railways is an experience one should not deprive oneself of. You get to know the nation, its culture, its people from the confines of your bogie. The general class is often too crowded to let anyone enjoy the experience, the upper classes are too restricted to let the variety in. The best is the sleeper class. Railway rules say that unreserved passengers cannot board the sleeper boogies. But in a democracy like ours, it is the people of the place who make the rules and we aliens travelling through them have to unwillingly adhere.

During my student days I logged thousands of kilometres on the upper berths of the sleeper class. Now, when I can afford a little luxury I have graduated myself to the three tiered air-conditioned class. But sometimes seeing the peacefully asleep co-passengers from my (again) upper berth, I miss the chaos and the cacophony of the sleeper class. But the past experiences of travelling through the badlands of Bihar makes me comfortable in the existing state of things.

One thing I always wondered about is that why can’t most of us travel light. For a holiday of a week we seem to pack our entire wardrobe. I am of the opinion that the Indian Railways should strictly enforce the weight regulations for the passengers. There was this lady in my compartment who spent half of her time anxiously counting the number of items in her luggage and the remainder half in arranging and rearranging them – arguing and occasionally pleading with the other passengers. Then there was this expatriate Indian returning from the gulf with a suitcase the size of a cupboard – which occupied 3/4 of the leg space between the opposing berths.

One word which keeps our diverse nation chugging on its wheels – be it politics or passengers abroad a train. ADJUST. This adjustment or the expectation thereof makes us move forward. The unreserved passenger expects the legal seat occupants to adjust a bit so that he can reach his destination. The overloaded aunt expects her excess baggage to be adjusted. Families travelling together but with distant seats expect us solitary bachelors to adjust in seat adjustment/exchange. Which made me realise the importance of the independent MLA or MP in government formation.

If you are finding this post too lengthy for your reading – this one time please adjust.

Categories: Grumbles India
  • Shivangi Misra

    Yes Soumya, I know what you mean. Being a student, or single, or young passenger can be annoying for the simple reason that others think we dont have preferences. However, I am not of the opinion that railway should impose weight regulations for the simple reason that travelling by train is the cheapest and the fastest mode of transport for the ‘common man’ (forgive me for using that term rather loosely). Besides heavy luggage is very characteristic of transfer cases. When I was shifting base from my hometown to Delhi, and then from Delhi to Chennai and back, had it not been for the usual indian railway spirit of ‘kindly adjust’ I wonder how I would’ve survived…

  • Admin

    What I miss mostly from my days of train journey are the friends I make.. the poem on my blog was so apt, I have kept it on my blog. of course Not written by me.I had this habit of chatting up even with the most unlikely persons, even Aunts and granny types. I have made business men, engineers and what not. With some I kept in touch. Then I started travelling by plane, but i never fail to chat up the guy or if lucky girl next to me or even across the aisle. On flight to Mum from Kol when I shifted, I met a pretty-eyed bong girl. We still talk on the phone lol. Another time I met a sales guy of some medical equipment company, I gave him the contact number of some big shot in the Health care business who would have attended to him if he took my name. Bugger didn’t give me a call back or even an email. he didn’t call up the bigshot either i believe, he won’t make a good salesguy tsk tsk

  • K

    Gotta love the Railways at times, I’m sure some of the old-time train travellers who have been lured to the low-cost carriers can’t quite understand why this ‘adjust’ philosophy doesn’t work while you’re on a plane.The weather in Shillong must be fantastic…

  • Mall Road

    Travelling long-distance by bus is even more interesting, I bet. You get to know small town and rural India a bit, only a bit though.

  • Rita

    When I travel in AC an compartment I miss the cacophony too. Especially, the ‘chai, chai’ of the tea walas. 😀

  • Accidental Fame Junkie

    “Adjust”- Sounds like a mantra! Travelling on rails is a real experience. Somehow I think it is better than a 1.5 or 2 hour/s air trip. I love to see the landscape change!

  • pallavi

    I like travelling light too.. thats why we move around the country in our bike … its more fun and the whole essence of travel is felt all the more… if you can move about more…Yeah i remember those days as a student when I used to go second class from bangalore to Ghy and then catch the bus to Shillong.. then I upgraded to AC … lOL.. was more comfortable..I remember I used to patao the pantry man to give me good fish pieces… hahahahNow i take the flight to save time of course… 🙂 It seems now you can go from GHY to Shillong in a sumo or a car for 100 bucks… the era of the buses seem to be dwindling…

  • AquaM

    Hey Sowmyadip,Good to hear from u from shillong. Yeah, talk about train journeys with tons of luggage and lotsa adjustments to make!!! It’s a bloody pain to find that a passenger who is seated a couple of rows away has conveiniently propped up his baggages in the vacant plot reserved in your name.It’s every passenger’s nightmare!!I was faced with this problem of ‘adjustment’, on many occasions when I travlled to Bangalore. So now, I head to the station a little earlier than usual, even if it means sacrificing 15 mins of my of my beauty sleep…:))AquaM

  • Soumya

    well said…journey is boring in other than sleeper… hmmm… bachelors r expected to go seat exchange… worst part is that women demand it as their right and dont feel thankful if u agree and if u dont they r ready to make hell out of u…

  • Mythily

    I love travelling in train…

  • Anonymous

    “…co-passengers form my (again) upper berth…”. shouldn’t it be ‘from my..’

  • Abaniko

    I haven’t tried riding long distance in trains except when I gamely circled a portion of Singapore which only took around two hours. But I travel VERY light, yes. I just hate it when I travel with girls. They ask me to carry their extra baggage.

  • aklanta

    Once I happened to be in Bihar for a few days…first day I decided to travel from Danapur to Patna, the first obvious choice came out to be train…when I enquired about the possible fare,I was laughed at…”You are a guest here in Bihar and you are thinking of purchaging a ticket?<> Hum har din train se jate hain lekin hamne kabhi ticket nehi kharida…tum kahe ko kharidoge?<> (We travell everyday but never get a tickt. Why the hell you will buy one?)

  • Soumyadip

    Thank you my anonymous proof reader. The typo has been corrected.

  • Soumyadip

    <>on_the_walk (aka Aklanta), <>Bihar is Bihar. And Laluji is the Railway Minister.

  • AquaM

    Hi Soumya, I don’t think that every woman would agree to that statment you made (that women demand it as their right and dont feel thankful if u agree and if u dont they r ready to make hell out of u… ).You would be doing grreat injustice by denying credits to a few courteous souls who also happen to belong to the fairer sex.On the other hand, I absolutely agree with your observation of men having to trade seats just because htey are men and can afford to live through any situation. It gets my goat!I think the Indian pscyche is conditioned to think dat way….AquaM

  • dwaipayan

    well, i dont think u need my comment any more.coz u have got loads of them. well, i just wanna see ur travel bag. or do i need to adjust my wish!!!!!

  • Soumyadip

    Yes, it is always expected for men to make all the adjustments. Even give up our seats on the unreserved side of the city buses for the damsels (it’s not that we always mind doing that).

  • Vijay Krishna

    Excellent post. I could visualise myself observing the selfsame things that you’ve described. Train journeys are such a frabjous joy.As for the ‘ADJUST’ part, I remember a conversation I had with a friend some years ago.<>Me: Who is an Indian?He: An Indian is a compromising man.<>

  • Hrishikesh

    It (Your blog) just reminded me of my student days when I had to travel regularly by Guwahati Bangalore Express, twice a year. It had such an impact on me that even now I clearly remember the different highlights at the various points along the route.Starting from the Saraightat Bridge and mist covered Brahmaputra, the original electronic items at Assam – Bengal border, the Farakka bridge, the huge Howrah station and the glimpse of Howrah bridge from the station, the delicious puris at Kharagpur, the eunuchs in Orissa, the magnificent Chilka lake in the evening, the juices in Vizag and Vijaywada, the glimpse of few ships at the sea just before entering the Chennai station and final those huge red boulders on the way to Bangalore and finally getting into the Bangalore city in the evening……………. All these experiences are unique and I will miss them forever. It used to be very long journey of 3 days but still it had a unique charm to it. I wish I could take this journey once again, but I guess I can’t afford it anymore.

  • Soumyadip

    <>Hrishikesh<>: Some pleasures, they stay for ever embedded in memories. If we could relive them at our will, then they wouldn’t remain as pleasurable.