India’s railway network is one of the biggest in the world. We are the second largest nation in the world with 63,000 Kilometres of rail laid. It carries passengers and goods throughout the length and breadth of the country. It is the cheapest mode of travel as compared to air travel and road transport. The railways promote tourism. It brings the people of different parts of the country closer. It helps in achieving national integration. The railways are the country’s wheels of progress and prosperity.
In ancient times, people used to go by bullock-carts and on horseback. It used to take months to reach a far-off place. But nowadays, railways can carry a passenger to his destination within a few hours.
Last year, I decided to go to Simla, a hill-station in Himachal Pradesh, to see my uncle. My uncle owns a chemist shop in Simla. I packed up my luggage and went to the New Delhi Railway Station in a taxi.
I reached the Railway Station half an hour before the start of the train. There was a long queue at the railway booking office. I was able to purchase a ticket for Simla with great difficulty. I engaged a coolie to carry my luggage and went to Platform No. 3. There was a great rush at this platform.
The Kalka Mail arrived at the platform at 9.00 P.M. Before the train could stop, passengers started boarding it. I was lucky to get a seat by the side of a window. The passengers threw their luggage inside the train through the open windows. Many passengers were trying to get in while others were trying to alight through the doors. There was a lot of pushing and jostling. A pickpocket deprived a person of all the money he was carrying in his pocket.
The guard of the train blew the whistle at 9.30 P.M. and waved the green flag. The train started and in a few moments picked up speed. The compartment was packed to suffocation. Some passengers had to sit down on the floor of the compartment. Others occupied the place meant for keeping the luggage. A few passengers could not find any space. They had to stand.
Our compartment had people from all walks of life-doctors, businessmen, government employees, bank employees, teachers and students. Every now and then beggars came to beg, hawkers came to sell books and magazines. One quack entered the compartment and offered a medicine which he claimed was a panacea for all ills.
Some passengers in the compartment were very talkative. They started discussing politics. There was a heated discussion on the threat of terrorism in the country and how to combat it. Some teachers and students engaged themselves in discussing the salient features of the New Education Policy of the country. The problem of rising prices was another favourite topic. By 11.00 P.M. most of the people in the compartment fell asleep. I could not enjoy sound sleep during the night’s journey because at every station, passengers kept coming in and going out of the compartment.
Once, I had to go to the toilet. I was shocked to find that it was very dirty. It looked as if it had not been cleaned for a number of days. The mirror in the toilet was missing. Someone had stolen even the tap. I wondered why people in our country steal railway property.
At the Kalka Railway Station, I changed to the train for Simla. The journey from Kalka to Simla had to be covered by a narrow-gauge train. Though the compartments in this train were small in size, they were beautiful. This train followed the mountainous track in a zigzag manner. It passed through many tunnels and beautiful valleys. A cool breeze was blowing. The mountains were full of green trees, plants and grass. The scenery was beautiful. The three-hour journey from Kalka to Simla was thus very pleasant.
When I reached Simla, I found the weather very fine. I thanked my stars that while in Simla; I would be away from the scorching heat of Delhi. My uncle had come to the railway station to receive me. After paying my respects to him, I told him that the rail journey from New Delhi to Simla had been comfortable and pleasant.