Long distance train journeys always meant end of exams and the start of long vacations. For us it meant going to Chennai or Kerala/Mangalore on holidays. Mostly it used to be Chennai as my grandparents lived there.
The sights and sounds of the platforms at every stop, the Chaiyya-Coffee sounds, each station known for its own famous eats like Batata wadas from Karjat, Chikki from Lonavla, Aampapad from Renigunta/Guntakal, Coffee at Arakonnam..it was all just too good..
The packed lunches my mom made was super. While one may wonder why it tastes so good in a train or a picnic--were we more hungry ? or was it just the anticipation of something good! The jury is still out on that one..memories of idlis soaked with molagapodi, The Puliyodarai, the Chapatti and Potato Masala, and my other favorite Pulao, would make me want to take a train journey again.
We used to also get in vegetables(boiled potatoes, Tomatoes, Cucumbers etc) for slicing and quickly making Veggie sandwiches. My mom brought Hot water in a flask, instant coffee and Milk powder(Have u ever tried eating milk powder and getting it stuck on the upper palate of the mouth ? BLISS) My moms coffee rocked and she was always prepared! I love the way she made every experience a kind of an extravagant indulgence for us..No wonder my dad hates travelling without her.
As kids my brother and I loved the Mail trains which used to mean two nights in the trains, we loved trains that got delayed which meant more time in the train. We loved to stand by the door with our mom and enjoy the breeze hitting our faces. The sights of Fireflies and the undisturbed night sky where the stars shone like we could never see in the city. The paddy fields, the sunflowers, the children running and waving at passing trains, we used to wave back like old friends..
My favorite place was the upper berth. and most of the the fellow passengers used to marvel at the way i used to climb up quite deftly. I loved to lounge in with comics and have my Mom supply all the food up to me :-) My brother on the other hand was a night hawk and stayed up all night watching train stations.
Making friends in the train was another fun thing to do..sharing lunches and conversation was so much interesting..and nope we did not fear not know about the biscuit bandits then(some group of thieves who offered drug laced biscuits to unsuspecting passengers and robbed them of their valuables. Shame) Which also brings to mind this interesting term in Tamil/Malayalam RAIL SNEHAM, which means friends we make in trains whom we don't necessarily keep in touch..but it lasts till the journey ends..Have often wondered how come have NEVER met any of the fellow passengers again or recognised them if i did..
One thrill was watching the UP train go by as we were the DOWN train and vice versa..to see them in the next track and mock thinking, hey they are going back home or some such random thought..well our vacation was only beginning, so we could !
The other thrill was at times getting down with DAD at some bigger junction(with the longer time stop) and watch the Engine Change. Don't ask why but it just seemed so fascinating.. Even watching the train wind through and see its engine from the door was such a joy! My brother used to know when it changed from Electric to Diesel and back ..
I remember as kids going to the ICF coach factory in Perumbur and loved the way the wagons were made..in fact we saw a glimpse of one of the LUXURY coaches of the palace on wheels, which i promised myself i would travel by one day.....