Indian Rail

Train travel has been a fascination of mine since a very young age. And I’ve had lots of opportunities to travel the length and breadth of India by rail. Also having backpacked over Europe by Eurail, a couple of times, I can say with a certain pride, that travelling by Indian rail is as interesting and enriching an experience (if not more) as travelling by train in Europe and here in the US.

Rajesh Jain, the entrepreneur and powerhouse Indian blogmeister, has a fascinating series on Indian railways and more importantly his memories, observations and fascination. Titled “Trains Planes and Mobiles” it makes wonderful reading.

The first one is titled: Fascination

Every once in a while, I like to put myself in different situations. The train was going to be one such experience. So, I wasn?t too disappointed that I did not get first-class or chair car tickets. Had I got those tickets, the train ride would have been more like a plane ride. I would have taken a few books to read or perhaps even my laptop, and immersed myself in that for the entire journey. But given that I was going to be sitting in a packed second class compartment, even though I did have a few magazines and a book, I didn?t get to them. I was fascinated by what I saw and with the thoughts that crossed my mind.

The second one is titled: Memories

I’ve done the Mumbai-Pune journey countless times. I knew I was a grown-up when I was allowed to travel on my own and didn?t need an ?adult? to accompany me. I always wished for a window seat ? because that meant that I could look out and get lost in my thoughts. The window seat also meant that the breeze would blow right in my face ? which I quite liked. Sitting at the window, I?d also see the kilometer markers go by.

The third one is titled: The Journey

The sense I got as time passed that day is that trains are the lifeline of India. It should have been obvious and something I should not have forgotten, but my long hiatus from trains had made me forget about this. Trains connect places and lives. There is a huge economy which is built around trains. It may be easy to get misled by the low-cost airlines that some people travelling by train have started flying. The reality is that for most of India, trains are the only connectors. There are no flights between Mumbai and Surat. The road journey would have taken too long. The train was the only practical option.

The fourth one is titled: The Institution

The impact of the Indian Railways is broad. As the website put it: ?Indian Railways have been the prime movers to the nation and have the distinction of being one of the largest railway systems in the world under a single management. Railways being the more energy efficient mode of transport are ideally suited for movement of bulk commodities and for long distance travel. As compared to road transport, the railways have a number of intrinsic advantages. Railways are five to six times more energy efficient, four times more efficient in land use and significantly superior from the standpoints or environment impact and safety. Indian Railways, therefore, rightly occupy pride of place in the growth and development of the nation.?

The last one is today….cant wait to read it.

The above are just excerpts from each of the posts. You should jump right there and catch the whole article.As much as I love Rajesh’s blog for my fill of tech talk and emerging technologies info, I think this series ranks right up there as one of his best. His last paragraph in yesterday’s piece is really worth the read.

My experience that day was very positive. Both the trains I took (to and from Surat) were on time. And talking of conversations, the trio (all in their early 40s or so) sitting across from me was fascinated by the iPod and wanted to know more. When I told them what it did and how much it cost, they started discussing amongst themselves why anyone would pay so much for such a small music player when one could get a ?big, 1000 watt music system? for a lot less! And just as I was telling them that the smaller they are, the more they cost, a youngster sitting on the other side popped the question: ?Uncle, 4 GB or 40 GB?? For a moment, I was stunned. For some reason, I hadn?t expected to find a fellow iPod aficionado on the train! But, as I thought to myself, this is the New, Young India. And the train is the ultimate melting pot.