My Ammamma (mother’s mother) used to live in Tatanagar, Jharkhand, then Bihar. It was a journey that took 3 days and 2 nights by train from Bangalore. Those train journeys were most fascinating and enjoyable. Me and my sister were never tired at the end of that journey.

The whole process was exciting to us kids. There was no direct train to Tatanagar. We had to change trains in Chennai, then Madras. Then board another train at Central station. Those days the train tickets were in the form of small pieces of cardboard. I used to be most fascinated by these. I never understood what was written on them. The booking of these tickets used to take my dad a whole day at the railway station. Nowadays the booking is at the click of a mouse. So unimaginable those days.

The packing was also too exciting. The large “hold-all” used to be brought down from the attic. This was a large, rectangular canvas that could be rolled out on the ground and had pockets at both ends. They could be stuffed with anything. The rest of the clothes would be rolled out length-wise on the canvas. And then it would be rolled like a frankie, and tied up. The “hold-all” would literally hold all. And could swell to any size! something that luggage nowadays can’t do! 🙂

Sometimes my parents would take the luggage ahead of time and keep them in the cloak room of the railway station and on the day of journey we would reach the station with minimum luggage, collect out bulky stuff from the cloak room and get on the the train.

The train from Madras to Tatanagar had a steam engine. We always traveled in 2nd class. Me and my sister would sit at the windows and put our faces very near the windows and by the end of the journey after two days, our faces and hair and nails too would be covered by soot! The journey used to be so long that after getting down from the train, for about a day we would be feeling a motion in our bodies.

The journey itself was too exciting for both of us. As we crossed the rivers Krishna and Godavari, the sheer expanse of water filled me with awe. Amma always gave us coins to throw into the river. Nowadays sitting inside an AC train with closed windows, even this pleasure is gone.

The ever changing landscape, the green fields, the coconut trees, the never ending railway tracks, the changing languages, changing dress and culture: all these used to make the journey so memorable.

I can’t imagine undertaking such a long journey in these days and that too in 2nd class. Those were simpler times. So simple that we would simply fill up our water jugs from any station that we were at. Such a thing is simply impossible to do so now.

Those days are now permanently stored in our memories to be told to our kids like a fairy tale.