We bid our goodbyes to our family in Chandigarh and got into the cab. i had had anxiety all day week and that last day, in anticipation of our digital nomadic life that we had embraced and that we were once again set to take off on. It was a Friday, the 8th of April 2022.
As soon as I got into the taxi and it took off, my mind eased and the anxiety slowly came to disappear. By the time we were at the railway station I didn’t even remember that I had had anxiety earlier in the week.
Our train was scheduled to depart at 623pm. We entered the station with our backpacks. I looked around awkwardly. There were so many people. The covid pandemic had eased and people had started traveling again, after being bound inside their homes, for 2 long years.
For us it had been different. We decided to leave pune, which had been our home for so many years. Whether it was for good only time would tell. But we had taken that step towards a hopefully fulfilling, digital nomadic lifestyle that we had often talked about.
The packers and movers had come to our house on the 2nd of oct 2020, and we had asked them to take all our stuff to a warehouse in pune. we had the essentials, 2 backpacks, 2 day packs and the white jacket as we often called it, our 10 year old Hyundai i20 car, that was loaded with essentials, those that would see us through the next few months. there was no plan in place. We were going to take it day by day. First, we had to reach goa. we had booked ourselves a home for a month, at the mariner’s bay resort, in mandrem, north goa. then we would see where life would take us.
Anyways, the railway station was bustling with people, old and young, abled and disabled, men and women and children. The train came into the station at 610pm. It was the Shatabdi express, the Kalka delhi Shatabdi express, that stopped for a good few minutes in chandigarh.
We found our coach and then our seats. We kept our backpacks on the racks above and made ourselves comfortable in the seats that had been allotted to us. The train left the station at 623pm and there was hope.
We saw the sun set through the windows and then the sky turned purple and then slowly darkened until there was no more to see through the windows. Occasionally, we saw lights on the streets or in the distance, that of a house, or a moving vehicle. The coach was fully occupied. Smoking was not allowed on the train and that meant that I, who had been a chain smoker for many years, had to go without smoking for the next 4 hours. it was bliss in a way, to not have to bother, about smoking.
We hadn’t asked for dinner while booking the train tickets online on irctc.co.in. However, we asked the guy from the pantry if he could be kind enough to bring us 2 non-veg thalis. dinner was served after all the pre-booked orders had been served to the hungry passengers. It was chicken curry, chapatis, dal, rice and pickles. It was delicious. I have always enjoyed meals on the train, especially the cutlets and the bread rolls that one gets on Indian trains, for breakfast or snacks.
For me the train journeys bring a bit of nostalgia. My parents lived in Thiruvananthapuram, (the best name a city could ever have) in the 80s, before they moved permanently back to Pune. Half of my childhood was spent in Kerala and the other half in Pune. Every summer we would board the Jayanti Janata Express train that took us from the south, along the coast, all the way to Pune. The hawkers beckoned us to try their goodies, with their ‘chaiyaa chaiyaas’ and ‘kaapee kaapees’, and that till date rings in my ears. We would visit our grandparents in the summer before schools reopened for the year. Now those are just memories.
I love train journeys. For me they have always more or less been pleasant and often remind me of adventures that lie ahead. They make you look forward depending on the seat you are sitting on. if you face the direction the train is going in, they remind you of the future. if you face the opposite direction, they remind you of the times gone by. just kidding hehe!! but one could always look at it any which way they liked.
The train stopped at Ambala Cantonment, Kurukshetra, Panipat and then the final stop was Delhi. We reached Delhi at 950pm. The train journey was eventless, yet the journey in itself was an event.