Wheels in Motion: We begin our journey from Pune
With all our heavy back-packs, we boarded the Goa-Nizammudin Express train from Pune station at 4:30 AM in the morning, bound for Delhi. The group generally engaged in small talk getting comfortable with each other. The first night in the AC-2 compartment was too cold for me and I could not catch any sleep in the few hours of the early morning.
The whole of the next day, we survived the Railway meals by supplementing them with American pistas, Vidisha’s homemade besan-ke-laddus, and the traditional Maharashtrian chiwda. The kids thrived on cream cookies and Pepsi.
Traveling in the AC compartment though comfortable in many respects, steals the joys of long-distance railway travel. With open windows, you are intimately involved with the weather changes as you cross time and space. The journey is real and live. As a kid, I was fortunate to enjoy long train journeys, sitting at the window with a constant wind across my face that brought the outside world inside.
In contrast, the AC compartment acts like a virtual cabin transporting you in isolation from your surroundings. For a trip to the Himalayas however, this was a necessary price to pay, since the AC keeps you refreshed and does not tire you. Nevertheless, I stole many opportunities to walk out of the AC section, open the compartment door, and lose myself in the landscape, reviving my childhood memories of long-distance train travel.
We had brought ample decks of cards, and most of the day passed in learning and playing Bridge. There were Bridge veterans among us and we learned from their wisdom. I was not an avid card player however, and stole time to read the Himachal Pradesh tourist guide that our friends had got along with us. For the first time, I got a sense of where we were going and what we would encounter.