Sunday, May 5, 2013

A train of enriching memories - Brindavan Express

   Long long ago, i would look  forward for the closure of school for  summer holidays. The holidays would  last for two months starting  March 23- May 23. That  period was supposed to be summer in Bangalore when we never even switched on fans. The  whole city was naturally airconditioned with the various lakes and  trees like  sampige, margosa, gulmohar, laburnums and jacaranda. While many would head towards the garden city or air-conditioned city for holidays, i would look forward to travel to Madras for my grandparents place.

On the last working day of the final term, Compulsory kannada  my third language exam would end at 10.30 a.m  and i would board my train - Brindavan express at 1.20.  This was an annual  feature and it was a solo travel. My parents would drop me at the Bangalore city station and my grandparents or my uncles  would pick me up at Chennai central when it reached there at 7.30 in the evening.

The interim 6 hours, the child in me indulged in the sights and sounds of my onward journey which must have sown the seeds of wanderlust in me.  I generally got a window seat and so would rest my head and watch the train wind its way through fields and beautiful landscapes and enjoy the unending views of the setting sun and  all other scenic sights that unfolded. Especially, I enjoyed the sight and sound  of the winding train by sticking my head on the grills of the window.
                          ( image courtesy: Google images)

If it was scenary outside the window, it was the constant chatter of the  people inside that kept  me entertained. As time and travel bound the passengers together, the people would talk politics, share stories, some would even  fix the alliance for their son/daughter by exchanging horoscopes. Some would play cards and some would listen to the small transistor. I would be a mute spectator  to all these happenings and watch with the innocence of a little girl.

All along my observations, i would wait for the pantry car to do its service, My favorite was the bun butter jam and cutlets/ samosa with tomato sauce.  These things today i avoid on a train journey but not during  those days. It did not matter to me about the germs, the dusty compartments , stench of the washrooms, poor sanitation , the crowd etc.

The 6 hour journey would end  when my grandfather received me at Chennai central. After i reach home and when appa enquired over phone "Did you finish the book?" would i realize that appa had brought me a book from  the Higginbothams book shop at the railway station. Also, the upma or idli my mom packed for the journey would be intact till it reached Madras.
That is the magic of a train journey where there is never a dull moment with food, people, smell, sound and sight.

The cries of ‘Chai chai, bisi bisi chai’, the mobile push carts selling books, eatables etc, the sound of the whistle, people running here and there to locate the compartments – if all these bring life to the platforms then the gentle rocking movements , the train friends, the hawkers inside selling peanuts,  movie song books and their interactions are something that added vibrancy to the journey.

 Years later i have traveled the Rajdhani, Shatabdi, KK, nizamuddin, Pallavan, rockfort, sabari ,intercity, vishaka etc., and added many many enriching  experiences.Each journey can be a post of inspiring memories. 

Tomorrow as i embark on another experience of  train journey towards my hometown I will notice a few changes in relation to my childhood journey.  Yes, the nature of people will never be the same. Some of us will be immersed in books, some busy with their laptops, some finalizing their business deals in a loud voice on their cell phone, some shuffling their i-pod list, some kids playing with the PSP or any toy but few things will remain unchanged like  the guard showing the green signal,  The porters  in the red dress, the announcements will be on, I will hear the 'Chai chai' cries and more.

For these are things that makes the Indian rail journey memorable. Of course, I will not write about the sanitation and cleanliness which has grown from good to worse but i prefer any day a train  journey over a flight journey when time is not a constraint. These train journeys have given me a wide exposure to food, culture, and people and i have seen much of India through the rail medium than by air or bus.


  1. That was a vivid description of a train journey... there is so much to soak in during a train journey... both inside and outside the compartment. A lot has changed over the years, but the charm of a train journey continues. Have a great vacation and see you soon with lots of stories! :)

    1. // The charm of a train journey continues// - yes, shilpa. Hope to connect from there but may not be regular.Thank you:)

  2. Ahh ; is this how the wanderlust in you got kindled. And Brindavan express has a mighty history. One of the earlier intercity expresses in the country it has a special place, although its not as old as the Frontier Mail or the Grand Trunk Express.

    Yes, there is a romance of the long distance train. One of these days you should be tempted to do the Trans Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok or the Indian Pacific between Sydney and Perth or the California Zephyr between Chicago and Los Angeles.

    Plea to any travel company - please sponsor this blogger on all these train journeys so that we readers can have the pleasure of armchair traveling from her superb blogging.

  3. Is BE one of the oldest? never knew.

    Oh, i wish i could travel all those but on my wish list is eurail trip and closer home i want to travel konkan and i missed the blue mountain at ooty when i reached the station late. I want to make a trip to ooty just for that.

    hear ye! Hear ye!! travel companies.

    Thanks ramesh for those beautiful words.

  4. Yes Asha even I used ot enjoy train journeys, but now I don't like it for reasons you have already mentioned. I know one can ignore them, but sometimes it is a pain to travel like this. I still remember the many times we used to travel by train because of my father's transferable job with the army, we used to get a full 1st class compartment to ourselves with its own toilet, no body to bother us, nobody to dirty the bathroom. We used to have so much fun, and train food used to be served in Stainless steel big plates with so much rice and vegetables and papad, but only a small katori of curd, we always had to buy extra curds. It was serves always hot, and everything was so clean those days. Can you imagine traveling from Lucknow to Assam it is looong journey, with so many states, and change of train at some point, it was an adventure.
    In the beginning the Brindavan/ lalbagh was clean and nice, now it is like travelling in a garbage train. They have introduced double decker train, I am sure that too would lose its charm soon, with too many people hanging around everywhere, despite paying so much for AC car we end up in trains that resemble some unreserved compartment.
    I loved train journey abroad, especially from London to to the suburbs.

    1. yes Rama, agree with your thoughts on train journey and btw you seem to have criss crosse some interesting plains of india. lucky you this is an advantage of cantonment kids:)

  5. u shd be in toastmasters :) semmmaaa descriptive journey :)

  6. Hi,

    I am doing research for a tv show in the history of food, read your article on tanjaore food. Was wondering if there is a way to contact you, I am I thanjavur right now.

    Do let me know, As soon as possible, ony here for 2 days.

    Thanks - ritika

  7. train journey reminds me of my childhood every holidays i would insist my parents to take in putani express in cubbon park. such long queues for that also.

    Very interesting post asha

    1. yes puttani express is an indulgence for every bangalore child. I hope it is still on. loved going through the tunnels and shouting during the journey and marveling at the dinosaur.

  8. Nice post Asha. I have linked back to it on my own post