Experiencing India: Sounds and Sights from an Indian Train Journey

Experiencing India: Sounds and Sights from an Indian Train Journey

It’s surprising how train journeys closely mimic the¬†cycle of life. We meet people, make friends, only to let them go and find new ones- thereby knitting an endless chain of emotions- only to be felt but never to be broken. But again, what is life, but a collection of such journeys.

The following passage is an ‘as-it-happened’ description of a¬†journey with the Indian Railways (the 12.30 Passenger train from Madurai to Rameshwaram, both of which lie in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu). Try not to find¬†for a story in here, rather, seek to experience the billion personalities¬†that make India Incredible. Here it goes.

Chug, Chug, Chug! The 12:30 passenger train from Madurai has just started to sing its rhythmic song, a melody it will sing for the next few hours till it reaches a mystical island called Rameshwaram. It is an overcast day of November 2015, the rain clouds looming over the horizon as I attempt to traverse, and hopefully document, the lush green landscape of Tamil Nadu, India.

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Tamil Nadu country side with the looming rain clouds

I yearn for the rain, as I am aware of the power of the raindrops to elate even the most dolorous environs.

As I¬†try to get comfortable in my cozy window side seat, I am greeted by a¬†distinct sound. ‘Wooooooo…’– a loud cheer, emanating from the far corner of my¬†train bogie, surprises all the five occupants of the compartment I am in. The train had just passed over a small river causing¬†a group of seven children, sitting at a corner of the bogie along with their parents, to let out a loud “Woooooo..” sound in a seemingly pre-planned unison.¬†From that moment onward, the children failed to hide their excitement towards any river, tunnel, or even an old bridge that our passenger train crossed.
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My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 2) ‚Äď The Tea Factory, The Workers And Some Conversations

My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 2) ‚Äď The Tea Factory, The Workers And Some Conversations

If you missed Part 1, read here –¬†My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 1) ‚Äď An Early Appointment With The Sun and Suicide¬†Points

Alam (our driver) was telling us about his daily life before we stopped at the suicide point. He was used to making three, sometimes four round trips to the Kolukkumalai factory. That is six to eight hours of driving on the rocky terrain at a tardy speed of 5-10 kmph with frequent stops to let other cars pass and to click pictures. He was from a village in Tamil Nadu from where he and his parents would come to work in the tea estates in Kerala every day. Sometimes they took thirty minutes to walk from their village, small village problems he said, not like the cities with roads and highways. I thought about myself, spending an hour stuck in bumper to bumper traffic to reach the glass windows, the claustrophobic steel of my office. Well, this did look like a tiny village problem.

This pretty meandering path running between the plantations is the rocky road we traversed at a speed of 5-10 kmph
This pretty meandering path running between the plantations is the rocky road we traversed at a speed of 5-10 kmph

Now that the day was ripe, more jeeps had joined us on the rickety road. Alam turned up the sound system and then we realized how very special our jeep was in comparison to the others. He was a fan of Pop music and was humming to Justin Bieber‚Äôs hit single ‚ÄėBaby Baby Baby ooooh‚Äô. Akon, however was his favorite star. Conversation was stemmed because of the music so we lifted the flaps which acted as doors of the jeep to let in the sunshine and the view. Everything was surreal, the rocks, the endless cover of green symmetry. There were the dreamy, so-clean-it-could-hurt-your-eyes-if-you-stare-for-too-long jade inhabitants of the plantation our aim was to explore today, lined up all about us in a surreal symmetrical fashion. The tea gardens were a reminder of order, that was absent in my daily, chaotic existence of caffeine fuelled writing and sleep held ransom by internet.

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