Saturday, June 27, 2009

Platform Platitudes, OR Zen and the Art of Railway Travel

While waiting at Old Delhi Station for my train to Calcutta, I spotted a sign on Platform 1 that said: TRAINS MAY BE LATE OR MAY MAKE UP TIME. A statement like this could only have originated from a Zen master. Or the Indian Railways. The sign perfectly embodies an attitude which has become second nature to Indian Railways faithfuls: philosophical acceptance, and cheerful resignation to forces beyond our control.

My return train was 18 hours late. It had no pantry, and no running water. But on reflection, I realised that I was in no hurry anyway, I could always buy food at the stations, and as the good Lord hath given us grime, so too He hath given us a home at journey’s end – a home with soap and a shower. I faced the journey with equanimity – even pleasure, for I had a good book with me, and a side lower berth.

In spite of the epic delays, the unpredictability and the littered platforms, so many of us like nothing better than to travel by train. To truly love the Indian railways, you need to be a bit like a Zen monk yourself.

8 comments:

Opaline said...

Trains are annoying because of the people who travel on them. Not a minute of peace even with headphones on. Worst bit is when I have to explain what I study, then explain why I shifted from English (which suddenly becomes VERY legit) and then what jobs I'm going to get. Also pile ons. I once spent two hours sitting in a vestibule because I couldn't tell this Annoying Boy to get out of my seat. And I have to hide in bathrooms and smoke. But I'd still rather take a train than fly. More mobility.

Adarsh A. Varghese said...

Well, if you have all the time in the world, and a good book, and good music, and non - interfering fellow travellers (or even a chirpy beautiful gal sitting next to you); then trains can be fun!

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

Oh yes. Oh yes. fresh from a railway journey with no pantry car and no running water (the Doon Express is doomed, it is), i couldn't agree more. There was a guy in the next compartment who played dekha hai pehli baar, saajan ki aankhon mein pyaar on his cell for two hours straight.

That song will be the death of me.

Sroyon said...

@Opaline, Adarsh @ Doubletake: Strangely enough, I never listen to music when I am travelling.

Abhiroop said...

Zen or no Zen, the Indian Railways rock. Period.

Please have a post on the Mumbai Suburban Railway. I have oft maintained that it is the eighth wonder of the world. Just today for instance, me and Arjun shouted, just as the 9: 55 Fast to VT was rolling into Kurla Station:

"Those about to board the Local, salute thee!"

Shrabasti Banerjee said...

Haha. Your fascination with Zen goes back a long way!

Sroyon said...

Lol, and your joblessness knows no bounds! :D

Shrabasti Banerjee said...

Blah, I was just browsing through your religion/philosophy posts upon seeing Raktima's comment :D