Happiness is to break away from the vicious cycle of life and enjoy a holiday.
Joy is to disengage from the stressors to move into a slow dance, grooving to the gentle rhythm of life — a virtue that is dropping off the horizons thanks to instant gratification.
Amid the ever-rising possibilities for the speed-addicted generation are still a few options that are best enjoyed at a defined pace — such as the joy of travelling by train.
Cocooned in a seat, on a carriage sealed off from the world that is rushing past your window, time seems to slow down as your eyes drink up the sights of the changing landscape and you contemplate where and how you fit into this expanse. These moments become wholly your own as you foster deeper connections within yourself and the people in your midst.
Every year, the two-month long magic of our summer vacations commenced on the crowded platform of the railway station. Our senses attuned to the blast of the horn and the sight of the metal beast thundering into the station.
The scramble and ensuing chaos of the awaiting passengers to get into the belly of the beast, and our parents’ warnings to stay together in the melee, did little to dampen our excitement. Our joy lay in watching the expanse of the world go by outside our widow, starting conversations with our neighbours and sharing a meal in their company while rhythmically swaying to the clickety-clack of the wheels racing along the tracks to our destination. One such summer break, we boarded the crowded train and having safely stowed our suitcases away and settled in, my brother and I got into a heated argument as to which one of us would claim the upper bunk. My brother, the second born, used his charm and a few practised theatrics to entice our father into agreeing in his favour.
As the train shot its way through the inky blackness of the night and its occupants lay locked in slumber, a fellow passenger without a reserved seat requested my father if he could rest the night on the floor in our compartment. My father sleepily agreed to his request and the middle-aged, heavy-set passenger made himself comfortable for the night.
Into the depth of the night, we were jolted awake by the painful shrieks of the new occupant in our compartment. My father jumped awake, scrambling about for the light switch as neighbours joined in in the commotion.
When the lights came on, we saw the sight of my puzzled brother who had landed on the floor from the upper berth, his fall cushioned by the healthy frame of the dazed passenger who in turn seemed shocked by the sudden weight descending on him, as he breathlessly nursed his hurt belly.
While my father and the other occupants picked up the little frame of my puzzled brother and helped the shocked passenger into comfort, my mother’s maternal instincts kicked in and she thanked the dazed man for cushioning her son’s fall.
Minutes after consoling and comforting a shrieking kid and a hurt and shocked passenger who was thereupon given the coveted upper birth, my sulking brother occupied a chunk of my berth leaving me cornered into its edges, wide-awake, and dreading another fall on to the empty floor below me.
The unfortunate incident sparked a friendship with the passenger that has since continued.
Often, it’s the journey that best teaches you about your destination.
— Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha