Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Travelling in Trains


I have been trying to travel in trains (non AC coaches) as much as possible.

Initially it was more to prove a point, to see if I can reduce the seemingly unnecessary need for AC. But that has changed.

I believe my body can comfortably tolerate temperatures ranging from 5 degrees to 40 degrees (Celsius), provided I take simple precautions, and am not exposed to direct sunlight or to bitter cold winds for extended periods. And so, I am trying to make my body get back to this comfort range which I had gotten unused to, thanks to almost 5 years of living in ACs 24X7.

But recently I was forced to travel by 3 tier AC. I could have taken a General class ticket and gone, but I am unable to take myself so much out of my comfort zone yet.

Just 15 minutes past entering the compartment I was reminded of the other reasons why I hate any air-conditioned mode of travel. Hate, till my body & mind remain in their comfort zone. 
  1. The young guns were busy with their phones or laptops. 
  2. Nobody in the set of 8 was busy with their books.
  3. My attempts at conversation were discarded with disdain. Twice.
  4. Curtains were drawn immediately after dinner. Though conversations continued over the phone from behind the veil.
  5. The coach is just so stuffy. I boarded the train half an hour before its departure. And spent roughly 27 of those minutes on the platform. And almost 2 hours of the train's journey on the footboard, letting my hair get what it always desires. Wind.
  6. Horrible food. No vendors selling the amazing pakoras, or namkeens within the compartment. You can get down at the station to eat, but my stomach was full courtesy the rail meal and the apple I had packed dreading the horrible food.
Exception: Once, when a family was travelling with a small kid, I tried amusing the child, and that led to conversations with family too. But only because of the child, I think.


Now let me contrast this with my non-AC experiences.
  1. The young guns are busy with their phones. Fewer cases of laptops being taken out (The corelation between having a laptop and buying an AC ticket seems to be high) though.
  2. There were a few instances where some people were reading magazines, once a girl was reading a book. A pretty girl actually. So I took out the most intellectual looking book I had in my bag and began writing notes furiously, throwing in knowing sighs and nods for effect.
  3. I made a few attempts at starting conversations. Except for one train journey, where the train was practically empty and the family in my set of 8 - what is this called? - was content speaking in Marathi only, and I was unable to join in. I was quite tired and did not try much anyways.
    Otherwise, conversations have flowed. Mostly, I didn't even have to try. I was drawn in. My journey from Guwahati to Kolkata was a case in point. It was just after Didi had come to power, and the genteel Bhadralok, so inclined to discuss, were furiously debating on the Mamta-CPI(M) line. And I, being an outsider, and that too (at that time) from Ahmedabad, a state ruled by BJP and an antithesis of what Bengal has witnessed over the last 30 odd years, was asked to step in. I spat a few things. But enjoyed listening to them more.
  4. There are no curtains in sleeper coaches. That just is not meant to be.
    The Argumentative Indian is the Indian who travels in Sleeper and General coaches. The one who travels in the AC one is the Autocratic one. The mute one. Except when it comes to his money.
  5. All kinds of wind pass through an open coach. I have suffered the loo of mid-May - actually, the whole coach suffered it as one, tips being passed on how to best use your handkerchief, where to keep the water bottle for that little extra coolness - in a train hurtling through MP. I haven't yet gotten chilly in a train, but got a hint of it on the Hyderabad - Bangalore stretch. I liked it, mild that it was. And many gastric winds assault your senses too. I will try not to romanticize those, though.
  6. Food. Finally. The best part of a train journey was the assortment of deep fried, dripping with oil, totally unhygienic but finger licking food you got while in the train and the local specialties at the stations the train stopped. Idlis and Wadas in the peninsula, Kanda Bhajia and Paav Bhaji throughout Konkan, Rasgulla and Rajbhog in Bengal, the list is long and I forget. Though the station food is something you can get while travelling by AC also.
But as time is passing, an AC journey is becoming the default mode of travel of my friends & family.

Well, it certainly is becoming more affordable. But more than that this seems to be the result of constant reminding of the fact that the human body is deficient and we need an AC to make our land livable. Thanks to the AC manufacturers for bombarding us with that idea. It seems to be working brilliantly.

As for me, I intend to be AC free as much as I can. That might not mean quitting my job just because it means I have to be in an AC room all the time. But I will cut down wherever I can. Maybe you should try and see for yourself too. The gym is not the only place you get fit. Try the sleeper coaches too. 

Searching for other people who love Sleeper coaches more than the AC ones (and not just because of the cost), I found this excellent post : http://www.indiamike.com/india/indian-railways-f10/sleeper-class-details-and-photos-t48782/

Enjoy Travelling!