Updated: Sep 29, 2021
It’s festival time. A vacation to dada-dadi’s home is the highlight of the season. You hold your father’s hand tightly, skipping along in your new Bata shoes, which Mummy picked for you to wear for your train journey.
You are excited as you move along with the sea of humanity all around you. Your tiny feet are trying to keep pace with the tide of people rushing down the tall railway staircase. You run alongside papa to quickly reach the red chuk-chuk gaadi(train) that will carry you along on a meandering yet stunning journey along the plains of India.
Making the squad
As you get onto the platform, papa lovingly lifts and places you on the large stack of suitcases. You are sitting there wide-eyed and enthusiastic, straining to see if you can catch a glimpse of any familiar faces.
“Is that Chachaji’s bald head? Is that lady in the pink floral sari, aunty Meera?” “Wait a minute! I know that laughter. That’s my cousin!” The run-up to the party has begun. You can’t wait to get on the train. Ma hands you the most precious cargo. “For safe keeping”, she whispers.
And just like that, you are an integral part of the team of adults organizing this vacation. You tell yourself, ‘this is an important parcel and I shall proudly protect it with my life.’ As you bring the pack closer, an unmistakable aroma hits you. Mirchi ka achaar!
The waiting game
An excruciating half an hour later, the train chugs along to the platform. The scramble for loading our bags begins. Women and kids get on board first. Once you reach your seat, the children aggressively stake a claim on the upper berths. That shall be your domain, your headquarters!
At long last, the train whistle signals that the journey is about to start. The train chugs along. It’s time to settle in. The men get comfortable with their newspapers and magazines. The women take a much-needed break as they catch up on the latest gossip. The children bring out their Tinkle Comics and a Ludo board! But wait, something is missing.
Happiness with no preservatives
Soon enough, the men move around laying papers on a seat. You hear mummy popping open the lid of a metal tiffin box. All the other aunties follow suit. The feast has begun!
Aunty serves small helpings of the pickle, making you pipe up, “extra mirchi for me chachi”. The elders chuckle as they pass on along warm aloo parathas. Papa buys all the children a thanda Gold Spot as a special treat.
Life just can’t get any better! You relish every bite, soak in the aroma and lose yourself in the sights and sounds around you. The journey is finally on the right track!