Wayside Gardens: India on the Rails


If life is a journey than, in India at least, it chugs along on two parallel steel lines... the railways. No reference here to the local trains of Mumbai, India's commercial capital, where citizens spend a substantial portion of their waking hours commuting increasing distances within ever expanding city-limits.This one is grand - a vast rail network criss-crossing the length and breadth of the country, spanning over plains and rivers, through forest and deserts, reaching out to the obscurest of villages and connecting them to the rest of this immense, wonderful conglomeration of people, towns, animals, history and culture, that is India.While air travel saves you time and driving by road lends flexibility to your schedule, there is really no better way to know India than by train. The general compartment especially is a startling microcosm of the multi-caste, multi-lingual eclecticism of the country that immediately disarms you with its robust back-thumping welcome. No formalities here as you are expected to roll up your sleeves and join in the abundant overflow of food, drink, conversation. Personal details are unabashedly pried into, common ground or acquaintances traced over a maze of memory, addresses exchanged and promises to visit, made...A long Indian railway journey is an unparalleled display of the lay of the land. As the train traverses across different states it unfolds a fascinating tapestry of gradually changing landscapes, people, houses, shops and signboards. From my favourite perch, on the steps at the door, I have never failed to harvest intimate glimpses into rural life: a peasant tending his field or enjoying a meal under a shady tree, a young cowherd driving a boisterous herd to pasture, women transporting water over a parched terrain, a herd of deer peeping nervously through dappled afternoon shadows...And then there are the numerous wayside stations, bustling centers of busy activity. Often no more than small shacks, these centers of village activity can be refreshingly beautiful, shaded by trees and with small well-tended gardens around them. But even more poignant are the isolated rail cabins or outposts that occur, seemingly in the midst of wind swept desolation, as a lone railway official holds out a green flag to give each train an all-clear sign as it hurtles by.It's then that it strikes you how this gigantic organization, the Indian Railways, the world's biggest public sector employer, is so critically dependent for its smooth everyday functioning on all the various little cogs that keep its wheels turning, right down to the guy who covers an allocated distance on foot daily, manually checking the screws in the fish plates to see that everything is right.A humbling thought really... [EXTRACT] If life is a journey that, in India at least chugs along two parallel lines of steel ... the railways. There is no reference here to the commuter trains in Mumbai, India's commercial capital, where people spend a significant portion of their hours of travel greater distances in ever larger city-limits.This one is great - an extensive railway network that cross the length and breadth of the country, which stretches across the plains and rivers, through forests and deserts, reaching the darkest of the people and their connection to the rest of this huge conglomerate , wonderful people, cities, animals, history and culture, which is India.While air travel and time-saving highway driving gives flexibility to your program really is no better way to see India by train. The general compartment, particularly striking is a microcosm of the multi-caste, multi-lingual country's eclecticism, which immediately falls apart with their strong support welcome shock. No formalities here are supposed to roll up your sleeves and participate in the overflow of abundant food, drink, conversation. Personal data are blatantly pried on common ground and acquaintances drawn on a labyrinth of memory, exchange addresses and promises to visit, did ... A long Indian train journey is a unprecedented exhibition of the land. As the train travels through the different states which develops a fascinating tapestry of gradually changing landscapes, people, houses, shops and signs. In my favorite position, on the steps of the door, never fail to reap intimate glimpses of rural life: a farmer tending his field or enjoy a meal under a tree, a young shepherd driving a flock to pasture busy mothers who carry water on dry ground, a herd of deer peering nervously through shadows later spotted ... And then there are numerous way stations exotic places of intense activity. Often no more than small huts, these centers of activity of people can be cool and beautiful, in the shade of small trees and manicured lawns around them. Even more poignant are the cabins or isolated railroad outposts that occur, apparently in the midst of desolation swept by the wind, like a solitary railway official holding a green flag to give to each train a sign that everything is fine, as it rushes by. It 's after that strikes you as this gigantic organization, the Indian Railways, the world's largest public sector employer, is so critically dependent for their daily functioning smoothly in all the different small gears that keep their spinning wheels, to the type assigned to cover a distance on foot every day, manually check the screws on the plates of fish to see where everything is dedicated right.A really humble ...
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