33. Indian Trains

Indian Trains: The best way to travel and absorb the Indian countryside, long distance sleeper-train rides are a wonderful breath of order and relative calmness in a country otherwise so overwhelming. There is a clear air of civility and pride associated with train travel in India. Attendants are patient and helpful, overnight bed linens are surprisingly fresh and pressed and – the best part – other passengers share their take-along home cooked meals with us. Plus, the curtained travel compartments in some of the cars make you feel like you’re in an Agatha Christie story. Without the murder or the English innuendo.

The windows in the upper-class air-conditioned trains are sealed shut, so they tend to be a little grubby, developing a yellowish film, cracks and oblong bubbles that distort the view outside. While the window condition makes it impossible to read station signs after dark (resulting in repeated “is this where we get off??” panic attacks), it also applies a surreal, dreamlike quality to the landscape whirring by. More so with sunsets, like the one we watched over the prelude to the Great Thar Desert, between Jaipur and Jodhpur (above). This particular ride was an otherworldly zoetrope of rural Rajasthani life. Sheep and goat herders driving their flock, idle children perched like delicate warblers on crumbling stone walls and women in vibrant saris, streaming like rainbows across that arid horizon. Time passes very quickly and not at all. And then every so often, a man comes by with a thermos of sweet chai and a stack of tiny paper cups. Four rupees. We like these trains.

 

  1. Erin says:

    Beautiful picture!

  2. Dan & Molly says:

    Speaking of chai, do the vendors walk down the aisle saying “chayachayachayachayachayachaya” and then, when they get to you, slow down and say, “chayachayachaya … tea?”

    And great videos! We’ll be bugging you for Rajastahan tips soon. Are you headed to Udaipur?

  3. Dan & Molly says:

    Speaking of chai, do the vendors walk down the aisle saying “chayachayachayachayachayachaya” and then, when they get to you, slow down and say, “chayachayachaya … tea?”

    And great videos! We’ll be bugging you for Rajastahan tips soon. Are you headed to Udaipur?

  4. Dan & Molly says:

    Speaking of chai, do the vendors walk down the aisle saying “chayachayachayachayachayachaya” and then, when they get to you, slow down and say, “chayachayachaya … tea?”

    And great videos! We’ll be bugging you for Rajastahan tips soon. Are you headed to Udaipur?

  5. Dan & Molly says:

    Speaking of chai, do the vendors walk down the aisle saying “chayachayachayachayachayachaya” and then, when they get to you, slow down and say, “chayachayachaya … tea?”

    And great videos! We’ll be bugging you for Rajastahan tips soon. Are you headed to Udaipur?

  6. S says:

    Ha…yes, the chaichaichai thing is pretty funny. Even funnier is when they slow way down in front of us and say “Chaichaichai….coffee?” I’m actually dying for a real cup of coffee here. It’s all Nescafe.

    And no time for Udaipur, unfortunately, but we have some Rajasthan advice for sure.