1.03.2014

Gaadi Barabar!

Night train journeys have always been special, despite a large portion of my train journeys having been overnight. The earth smells different when you stand at the door facing the dark countryside rushing by outside while the wheels belt out a steady 110kmph rhythm under your feet, and the feeling gets almost surreal. It's a deeply personal, quiet and contemplative moment I relish  in a life where most of one's waking hours are spent in a chattering, chaotic and sometimes utterly lunatic world.

And then there are the curves. Right from childhood they were the best part while on a night journey, and one of the few pleasures reserved for you when you ended up getting a berth far away from the loco. The coach gently banks to a side, and on pressing your head tight against the bars you could see the doors and the few windows that are still open, casting jumping shapes of light over the pitch black surroundings, and the powerful headlamps from the loco shining a steady yellow beam up the way ahead.

Just as the entire train is on the curve, there would appear a tiny blinking pinprick of green light from the engine. Instinctively, I'd shift in my seat a bit and turn my head back, towards the far rear end of the train and sure enough, the answering green flashes from the guard would be seen. This would go on for a few seconds, me looking back and forth till both finally clicked shut. Gaadi barabar. The chief would open up the throttle, and I would heave a quick sigh of relief. For, as I snuggled down into the sheet mom had tucked over me, I knew the train was all right.

Years later, despite having gotten to know what goes on every minute inside the cab and over the walkie talkies, I still instinctively look out for these comforting green flashes in the night, and I daresay a momentary feeling of reassurance does wash over me as I think of the long overnight journey over the stretch of tracks ahead.

*******************
Post inspired by a conversation with fellow lunatic Anil, while jointly missing Indian rail journeys sitting in the US.