Monday, 21 July 2008


Come summer and the magic of the train would take over. The long journeys which ended up in the improbable cool of the hill-station of Kodaikanal - where my father went to school as a boy - were longingly looked forward to during the term.

Finally the day would arrive and off we would go to Victoria Terminus to get the Madras-bound train. The bustle - the clatter - but most of all - the sheer majestic splendour of a huge black steam engine...

What the journey was for our parents I now can only shudder at - but to us kids it was pure bliss. To look out the window and see the wide expanses of country side - little villages flitting by - the occasional boy waving at the train in which we were travelling - the crazy flickering of light from the coach windows at night - now near and now far as the train furrowed through the night.

For me - especially when I was a bit older - the real pleasure was sticking my head out the door of the moving train and seeing if I could see the engine while the cool air pressed into my face. With the air usually came something else. Soot. I used to be pretty caked in it by the end of a journey. The first bathroom I was washed in after the trip being well soiled with the carbon deposits washed off our my little body.

As Sheba will testify - I still love the train trips - still love getting off at almost any station and walking along the platform - seeing if I can find a somewhat current newspaper and a cup of watery chai.

Do I miss the steam? Only the romance of seeing a majestic coil of smoke billowing out of a steam engine in the distance. I am happy for the carbon deposits to remain safely in their coal beds.

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