When my father was still in the Air force and we were posted in different states, trips to Kerala happened in the summer breaks. The chosen mode of transport- the great Indian Railways.
As young kids with infinite energy, we looked forward to the long train rides as much as we awaited the stay at grandma's place, the snacks and the extended playtime with cousins. I am pretty sure my mother did not share the excitement with us. Probably because the thought of looking after three young kids with boundless energy, bouncing off the walls of a train for more than 24 hours is not very appealing. I don't know how she did it, I can't even look after myself properly on the train.
My fondest memories of train rides are from Pune to Kerala. With a scenic route offering amazing views of waterfalls, snaking through lush forests, whooshing through more than a dozen long tunnels, we were sure to fight for the "window seat" each time.
We used to be thrilled if there were kids among our co-passengers. The parents, not so much. Oh what fun to watch your bunch of angels run barefoot, screaming, through the narrow aisles of the train, chasing another bunch of barefoot angels, stepping on peoples toes and knocking off delicately balanced plastic tea cups! More so when the kids loudly demand each snack that passes their way. Then the parents shoot dagger glances at the vendor tempting their already hyper kids with more candy until he reluctantly moves ahead with his tray of goodies.
But we didn't really care. In those hours/days spent confined in the small compartment, we befriended each other without hesitation. Eventually the parents get to know each other, exchange details and sometimes even discover mutual links!
Meanwhile, as the train chugs South, the landscape gradually changes. And the kind of snacks coming our way also change depending on which state/city we're in.
As soon as the sight coconut trees couple with the calls of "pazham pori chaaya" we know we are in Kerala.
Then begins the chorus of "are we there yet?" Till we reach my mother's hometown. The goodbyes are said and hands reach for the strategically placed luggage under different seats and overhead, the logistics discussed and we disembark. And there's grandma waiting for us with a big smile as she walks towards us. Assalamualaikums and how-are-you?-was-the-journey-alright? done we are bundled into the small car for another summer of family and fun
As we grew older and dad changed jobs, the long train rides with the whole family ceased. Some time back I boarded an early morning "Bangalore-kanyakumari express" to visit my relatives in another city. As I sat down ( at the window seat, WITHOUT fighting anyone for it), sipping on the trademark watery, super sweet coffee (yes, not tea! ??) that Indian Railways proudly offer, listening to kids next to me play "antaakshari", I was hit by a sudden bout of nostalgia. The kind which makes you smile and feel sad at the same time. The kind that makes you yearn for simpler times. Yet the grateful kind, for having those memories in the first place.
Alhamdulillah, for The Journey and the journeys within ??
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