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I’ve re-discovered the joys of train travel over the last few months. And the more I think about it, there are some very good reasons train travel is way cooler than taking a flight. And, here they are. A few of them.
There are emergency exits everywhere.
You know the drill, right? That speech that you get from the stewardess if you’re seated in the emergency row of an aircraft? None of that if you travel on the train. Every orifice is an emergency exit. Windows, doors, etc.. All of these make for a quick and clean exit, especially if you don’t have a ticket and you see the examiner approaching. Anything is an emergency. Everything can be an exit.
You can show up any time.
None of the rules of air travel apply here. No ID to show to be simply let into the travel area. There is no need to show up an hour before departure at the check in counter. Instead, you can show up as the train is leaving and hop onto it as it leaves the platform. In fact, many are known to do exactly that. There is some part of the Indian psyche that believes that if something moves on land, it must be boarded only while in motion.
You can carry anything on board.
There is a long list of things you cannot carry aboard a plane. There is also a long list of things that cannot be carried aboard a train. The difference is that you can pretty much ignore the latter list. You will, in fact, be able to find a porter who’ll help you carry bulky, dangerous things into the compartment, and a friendly ticket examiner who’ll help you store aforesaid dangerous substances. All for a nominal fee, of course.
“Excuse me, Ticket Inspector. I have this rather large and unwieldy nuclear tipped missile that doesn’t seem to fit overhead. Is there a place I can keep this?”
“Of course, Sir. Why don’t you just place right behind the last row in the compartment? That space is designed to handle up to Agni IV.”
“Thank you, Ticket Inspector.”
“You’re welcome. Err..that will be Rs. 200, please.”
The journey is the destination.
Seriously, trains in India are not just a means of transport. They are a way of life. An astounding 20 million+ people travel by train every day in India. There are over 9,000 scheduled trains that start somewhere every day. Hundreds of millions of Indians go on pilgrimages, on vacations to visit family and friends and on business trips every year. The Indian Railways is, not coincidentally, the world’s largest employer, with over 1.6 million people on its payroll.
No matter how often you’ve traveled by train, there’s always that tingling excitement that builds as you walk on the platform, locate the compartment and place yourself on the seat. As you feel the jolt that signals that the train is on its way, that’s when you realize that the journey has become the destination. Now, that’s definitely something you cannot say about traveling on a plane.