Growing up, a train journey was an annual ritual I looked forward to. The sky blue leather seats looked so exciting - laid out with surgical precision. The aluminium windows with multiple shutters seemed to me then a marvel of physics. And getting a seat by the emergency exit would be like hitting the jackpot in so many ways.
Once I started working, train journeys somehow dwindled away and banal flights took over. Hate taking flights - I think every time I take a flight I grow older a little faster. I feel the varicose veins spreading like grapevines on my legs. I can feel the hair greying. Can sense the skin drying up. When there is a delay on the flight it sucks big time - you can't sleep, you can't go anywhere. There is just no way out of the ennui. At best you can watch a movie while you are waiting - but it doesn't help. You are basically straitjacketed into that one seat either on or off the plane. The food sucks. No more how jazzy they make the seats, they cannot match up to the 6-foot berths on our good ol' Indian Railways where you ceremoniously lay out the sheets, stretch out and sleep to the steady rumble of the wheels. The sound of a train is the closest man can come to your mom's lullaby. You make friends on the train. You share food, you talk about food, you get down on the station and explore their wares. You fight over seats. You suck up to the TC to get you a better seat, or maybe a seat. And the best part - a delay just means more food, more banter and more sleep. It's bliss.
|Playing Red Letter A on a station in Assam|
If we have to thank the British rule for anything - it's trains - circa 1853.
another league altogether. As they chug around even today - they remind us of a quieter, simpler time. They ground the cities that are moving on with technology every millisecond. They are humbling in a way. They have this majestic charm to them that no other mode of transport can boast of.
My first encounter with the tram was in Kolkata. Amazing pieces of work. I would just take them for the joy of it all. Back in the summer of 2009, the 'first class' seat was Rs 6.50 and the 'regular seat' was Rs 6! What was the difference - you'd ask - the 'first class' had a rickety old fan!
When one moves to Hong Kong, the first thing one does is to get an Octopus Card. It is your passport to the city. Anything and everything is possible with your Octopus Card. You can go to any end of the city and buy anything on the planet with this baby. And being one of the best connected cities in the world, it's so easy to get by - through cabs / MTR / bus or trams. But I have always been a stickler for the MTR - no nonsense, fast, reliable, efficient, air-conditioned. Till the husband comes to visit - and he declares that he wants to ride the city on the tram. I desperately try to dissuade him - giving reasons like - 'getting stuck in traffic, hot and humid, uncomfortable, crowded'.
Call it serendipity - it's a beautiful evening with a breeze thrown in. We have just had
So now, every chance I get if I am not in a hurry, the tram it is. Somehow reminds me of the beautiful train days. If you are ever in Hong Kong and want to roam around the island line - take the tram - it's the best hop-on-hop-off ride you will ever get. Start at Kennedy Town and end at Chai Wan and come back. Stop by at Causeway Bay to shop a little, Wan Chai to grab a meal. Wing it!