A few days back I was talking to one of my closest friends about travelling and our anniversary travel plans. And then the comparison between trains, flights and ships came about. I decided to put it to test. And this is what I came concluded after my 26 hour journey from Mumbai to Kolkata via Duranta Express – the green coloured, crowded wreck started by Mamata Bannerjee – one which I support whole-heartedly.
The problem with train journeys is that you have no freedom. You do what everyone else does, when everyone else does. You eat when they serve you… the smartest of us can make the pantry person wait for maximum half an hour after which they promptly just stand and stare you down till you start nibbling. Along with everyone you stack your dirty dishes and block the tiny lane that lets people pass through. Even if you wouldn’t want to be caught dead talking to your co-passengers otherwise, you exchange the more formal ‘ etar opor rekhe din na’, ‘apni chaile shuye porun’ etc.
And sleeping is a social event – not sleeping together. But sleeping at the same time. One person makes his bed, and everyone takes it as a cue to say goodnight. And then once you are in your bunks, there would be ten minute search for the light switch, a discussion on how the a.c. isn’t cooling tonight, the chadar is dirty etc. God forbid if there are kids in that compartment. The soundest of sleepers can be no match for these unprovoked screamers. My plan of locking two of them in a dark bathroom is not being humoured enough at the moment by my friends. But it would have set a very good example, and everyone travelling this way would be thankful.
So you have slept/ half-slept by 10 pm, and yet at 1 am you wake up because someone cries, then at 2 am again when someone farts, and by 3 the potbellied uncle would have started snoring loudly. Chalo, at least one of you is sleeping.
You wake up finally at six because tea has been served in that brown thermos and the bong need to gossip early morning kicks in. You stay up till lunch till all your books are read, the mamata di-vs-laloo prasad debate has been won and all the aunties are done judging you for your ‘chal-cholon’. No eye candies travel with you in such cases, by default you get a seat next to a pure and staunch vegetarian. One who looks at you when you are biting into that chicken leg and make semi barfing noises. You try to look elsewhere, but the others are busy putting the free tea bags and sugar sachets into packs to carry back home. Then there would be fights, for the seats, the charging points, the luggages blocking the way, the lights, the towels, the anythings-and-everythings.
In comparison, the flights are safe, clean, less noisy, and so much faster. you eat, read, listen to music, smile politely at co-passengers, seldom exchanging any sort of personal information. You reach your destination. But then, you don’t travel.