I have recently been hearing a lot of criticism with regards to long distance traveling. I for one have always enjoyed every single moment of my travels over long distances be it to Bangalore with my grandpa or to Ludhiana on my way home in the vacations. Perhaps what incites me to writing this piece is the fact that I have traveled almost every possible way and can tell you how to make the seemingly disconsolate journeys a pleasurable experience no matter what the circumstances of the travel.
Here are some tips for undertaking journeys, which provide for such fantastic memories that you will carry them along for a long time to come. I hold the opinion that the journeys should be such that not only do you reach your destination but in the process enjoy yourself thoroughly and not miss a moment of your precious life sitting idly for such long periods. After all, when you reach your destination and are talking with your mates you don’t wanna have to be talking about your boring office and how nothing seems to be happening around you. After all, no one enjoys talking about boring politicos a million miles away, right? You should have had some experiences over a period of over 24 hours that you can rant about to your friends. So here goes-
· Make sure you travel by the good old Indian Railways. Trust me, they go through a lot of trouble to ensure your journey is as pleasurable and memorable as can be. After all, traveling with the world’s largest employer should definitely be an experience in itself every time you travel, right?
· Please save some money and try to travel in the second class if possible. I know it is difficult for some to adjust outside and air-conditioned atmosphere for such long periods but you can only hope to have conversations in the second-class compartments. I don’t understand why but for some reason, the same warm hearted people who would travel in the second class, turn into ice cold strangers in the AC (must be the chill in the air, I guess!) Traveling in the second class, you can meet some interesting individuals and make some really good friends. Besides, you can have a lot more fun catching all the vendors from your window and enjoy the strong breeze blowing through the windows at around 90 kph for a change!
· Make an effort to at least respond to the efforts of the other occupants of your compartments to strike up conversations. Even if you might not have ample time to make really good friends, you can be sure of getting some opinionated views about the widest array of subjects. Often, their views are really worth listening to simply because of the bias. I know it seems a waste of time to have to spend precious moments of your life listening to strangers rant but if you keep an open mind about it, sometimes you can detect flaws in your own reasoning and opinions.
· Try to drink a hot cuppa chai early in the morning when the train is still heading at full blast without burning your tongue or spilling a drop! It is impossible to do it, at least impossible for me!!!
· Eat a lot on the journey as against the notion of eating less! Spoil yourself with chocolates and wafers and chips and cold drinks and… if not now, when? Also, the one cuisine you definitely shouldn’t miss are the omlettes that are sold on the stations. Most of the time, they are divine. I am an eggatarian and if an omlette seems divine to me, oh god those people must be good. I still can’t explain how they manage to make such great omlettes but invariably, I have not been disappointed yet.
· The worst thing you can do while traveling in a train is read a book. You can miss out on some of the best activities by hiding your nose in a book. For example, in this vast expanse of the land of India, the landscape can change dramatically in a few minutes. If you don’t peek out the window, you fail to appreciate the beauty of my land and its people.
· Stand on the footboard and watch the landscape zoom past you as the wind rushes through your hair. There is hardly an experience like it.
Just in case you are wondering why I should stick my neck out for the Indian Railways, here goes. I used to be one of those snobbish kids back in the early days of college who despised traveling by train, especially in the second class. I used to be one of those people who would always be seen with a fat book in their hands especially on long journeys and reading with such intent that I never took notice of the landscape or the people as they passed me by. I despised this land and all the people who seemed to accept poverty as a way of life. I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to leave this land and move out to more civilized shores. All that changed when I was forced to travel to Ludhiana when my parents moved out. The very first time, I was forced to travel without a berth and without a book for over two and a half days! Although I had my friends for company for the first two thirds of the journey, I struck some really good conversations with the people in my compartment. I stood on the footboard for the first time enjoying the breeze run through my hair. I noticed how despite their own problems, people would often step up to help you with your problems. After that first time, I opened my eyes to the vast joys of traveling by train. I have often traveled without reservation without any troubles. On the contrary, my most pleasant experiences have all been related to those times. I was adventurous enough to travel in the general compartment on a couple of occasions and have been able to enjoy them too but would not recommend it to anyone else. To me, no matter what options are available, there is no travel like that in the second class of Indian Railways. I have discovered a land which is so vast and diverse that it ties me so strongly to my motherland that I refuse to venture out of the country with so much to discover even in my own backyard!Oh and as a footnote, the people who are seen most on a train, are senior citizens. I cant explain why but that is the case. Not that I am complaining though. They make the best conversationists and tell the most intriguing tales. And their sweet young granddaughters invariably accompany them on most occasions. All the more reason to undertake the journey, what say???