Life and train journeys should go on forever. Here is a list of my favourite trains:
- Mumbai-Pune trains: Indrayani Express and the Deccan Queen are two, that take just over three hours to cut through the verdant Sahyadris, to reach Mumbai’s sister city. They are known by scores of office-goers who traverse this stretch daily, for delicious hot cutlets with chai.
- Chalukya Express: Which brought me to my grandparents’ home in Hubli, Karnataka. I’d peer through the window, breathing air heavy with the smell of gunpowder, trying to spot their house from the tracks. In the evenings, I’d walk to a little station called Amargol, to watch trains going by.
- Konkan Railway: This is the most scenic route I’ve travelled. The Mandovi to Madgaon, Matsyagandha to Karwar, and Netravati to Thrisur, run on a stretch sprinkled with countless bridges over wide rivers and tunnels through lush green mountains, most beautiful in the monsoons. At a certain point, one can even see the Arabian Sea.
- Mussoorie Express: The first time I travelled in an AC compartment was during an overnight journey from Delhi to Dehradun. I decided I like sleeper class more.
- Shatabdi: Journeying from Delhi to Amritsar during Diwali was like rushing down the Milky Way in an air-conditioned coach, with comets for company. The evening Punjab sky and the prosperous Punjabi homes were both lit up. Seated in plush reclining seats, I was fed three meals in less than six hours. It was like a plane that never took off.
- Rajdhani: Every day, at five in the evening, my mother and I would walk down to the tracks to wave at the red-and-yellow train thundering by. The new grey-and-orange bogeys covered almost three thousand kilometres in sixteen hours.
- School trip trains: The thirty-eight hour journey to Calcutta on the ambling Mumbai-Howrah Mail is the longest I’ve undertaken. The Hussainsagar Express to Hyderabad, the Godavari Express onward to Vishakhapatnam, and the Darjeeling Mail from Sealdah to New Jalpaiguri, bring back memories of harassed teachers chaperoning students, applying toothpaste on slumbering friends, and sneaking off to hang out of the door.
- Jhelum Express: My first trip with total strangers. Within an hour out of Pune, we were playing cards and sharing dabbas, wishing Delhi would never come.
- Garib Rath: It was like travelling on the Janata Express to Firozpur – in AC. Bogeys brimmed with ticket-carrying and ticketless passengers, intent on an affordably comfortable journey.
- Lashkar Express: Reminds of a daylong journey with thirty college buddies, on the way back from Agra. We’d run like Bolts on every station platform, to visit our friends in distant compartments.
- Mumbai-Nagpur trains: I am a frequent and solitary traveller on the Vidarbha and Sewagram Expresses, which bring me to visit my parents. The Gitanjali takes seventeen hours; Duronto speedily finishes it in less than twelve.
- Trains I want to take: The Himsagar Express needs three days to reach Kanyakumari in the South from Jammu Tawi in the North – a dream journey. I want to board the toy train to Simla someday. I’d also like to experience luxury aboard The Palace on Wheels.
Till then, keep chugging.
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