Some of these journeys made me understand the suffering that the Jews must have gone through when they were being transported to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. They remind me of that scene from Benigni’s classic, ‘Life is Beautiful’ when the family is being taken to the camp. A train journey in the general compartment is the most spiritual experience that a foreign tourist in India can experience.
1) Parashuram Express: Ernakulam to Trivandrum
Don’t quite remember anything except some guy’s sweat drenched shirt being in my face. I must have been around 15 years old. My sister was almost left on the platform in the sea of human beings. Had to drag her in before the train left. Couldn’t even stare outside because there were so many people and this was before the advent of mp3 players. So no music either.
2) Guwahati Express: Trivandrum to Guwahati
Sleeper class for three days straight during the summer and also pantry food. Not a good idea. Word of advice, DO NOT HAVE EGG CURRY. I fell violently ill for 2-3 days.
3) Amritha Express: Trivandrum to Thrissur
Quiz competition in Thrissur at 9 am. 6 hour train journey and stood all through the night in the general compartment. Did I mention that they changed platforms 4 times five minutes before the train was supposed to start from Trivandrum?
4) Amritha Express: Changanassery to Trivandrum
After a disappointing day of winning nothing in St Bergman College’s annual fest, we decided to roam around the entire metropolitan city of Changanassery on foot. We managed to find our way to the railway station by midnight. Next train to Tvm at 2. Slept on the platform. Got on the train by 2. Couldn’t find a place to sleep, so slept on the floor of the general compartment. Woke up when someone stepped on my face.
5) Arranged Bus Travel: Trivandrum to Wayanad
Final year college trip. 3-4 days of spending the night on a bus, not recommended. Doesn’t matter trying to convince yourself that you are young, your back goes for a toss and all the winding and curvy roads as you go up and down hills make you sick.
6) Nethravathi Express: Mumbai to Trivandrum
I was supposed to fly Air India to Trivandrum after the 2nd semester in Pune. Why? It was a free ticket. Flight gets cancelled. I am stuck in Mumbai. A stroke of genius and I decide to travel in the general class for 36 hours straight. I literally did not move from my seat for the entire duration of the journey except for a bathroom break or two so that I don’t lose my seat.
7) KSRTC (Kerala): Alappuzha to Trivandrum
This happened during my internship in Kochi. I decided to experience the beauty of Kerala and travel by bus during one weekend on my way back to Trivandrum. Ernakulam to Alappuzha was awesome. But Alappuzha to Trivandrum had me sitting on the steps. I couldn’t see anything outside and it was as hot as a stove inside. Eventually, I got a seat when I reached Sreekariyam. That’s barely 7 km from my place.
8) KSRTC (Karnataka): Bangalore to Pune
After an exhausting Metallica concert, I had to attend a job interview the day after the next. Me being the dumbass that I am, under-estimated the time for the Bangalore-Pune journey. So, I had to book a ticket in a bus that would help me reach Pune three hours before the interview. I practically slept on the floor of the bus as I reached Khadki, several kilometers away from my hostel. Thankfully, Bhupi picked me up from there.
9) Jayanthi Janatha: Pune to Trivandrum
Holidays after the 3rd semester in Pune. I was dying to get out of the hostel. Two improvement exams to write. Stayed in the hostel way later than everyone else. Jayanthi Janatha never fails to disappoint. It decides to be 11 hours late. I was so pissed at everything that I spent the night sleeping on the platform. Train came the next morning at 6 am.
10)Chennai Mail: Trivandrum to Chennai
If you’re spending the night, try an AC compartment. The heat is murder and the topmost birth is claustrophobic. You don’t even have enough space to bend your knees properly.