Past Journeys

 Train journeys are always  fascinating, especially if you are visiting another country,they allow you to take in the scenery and observe human behaviour,which is always fascinating.

I travelled by train from one city to another in India, a year or so ago. The compartments are not exclusive now, even a first class has more than four people in it.And Indians are curious, chatty and interfering! As soon as you settle down, some one from the next seat will ask about your destination. The purpose of your visit and your origin! It is not uncommon for them to ask you about your income,number of children and the sort of house you live in.
And if you happen to mention that you live abroad,then they will quiz you about the economy, the race relations, the politics and the history of the country too!

This is a novelty for me,as when I travelled as a child,the railways, the atmosphere and the cultures were very different. My fathers job required him to travel all across the country to inspect the workings of the post and the Telegraph departments,as they were known in those days.
We never bought a train ticket, the office would issue a travel warrant as it was called. A First class compartment,and seats in the third class for the accompanying servants.As we always had a Peon,or a man servant, a cook, an Ayah or nanny for me and one assistant cook or dogsbody, the person who did everything else! From assisting the cook to, cleaning,shopping and serving the food, this person was called a sort of handy man!
In those days the first class compartment had green coloured,soft leather seats. Two seats and two upper berths. The interior will be fitted in walnut or teak,polished and gleaming. And it had toilet just next to it. With gleaming steel washbasin and toilet bowls. With a strong and reassuring smell of disinfectant. There was no air conditioning , but they had about four ceiling fans, reading lights,and quite bright main lights. The train was pulled by steam engine and it took at least two days travel for long distances. I remember that we had three different types of shutters for the windows. One would be a steel mesh,when pulled down will allow you to look outside, and allow air,but not let the soot and fine grit in,which would prevail if the wind was blowing this way. Then there were slates,like rigid venetian blinds, to keep out the sun, or the black out blind, which when pulled down at night,will block noise, and light.I remember the man servant will serve my fathers customary evening scotch  on rocks before dinner,and the dinner will consist of at least three courses, complete with pudding and coffee.
The second and third classes will always located way away from the first,and we never heard or talked to anyone,unless we wanted to.
Travelling now on Indian railways,it felt very different.All classes and people mingle, share food and exchange life stories. I think it is a good thing, but I feel that during my childhood though we were exclusive,but I did not grow up with a sense of superiority. I never lerant to,or tried to judge others, and never felt that others in different cirumstances were in any way less deserving of our respect or affection.
How about you? Do you also see a vast contrast in day to day living,than what you grew up with?  Was travelling very different here too?

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