I love trains! And I hate flights!

If trains are romantic comedies, flights are B-grade thrillers, especially if you are travelling in the economy class. Airlines’ optimal space utilization strategy often turns flights into simulation chambers for mummification. And every time a flight changes it altitude I feel like my heart has suddenly grown two spring legs.

I love driving. Unfortunately, driving in most Indian cities is a test of patience and perseverance. The word pleasure does not exist in the dictionary of a city commuter. And your knee soon start demanding a date with an orthopedic. I do enjoy once-in-a-while road trips though.

In comparison, I find trains, at least for long distance journey, way better. You can stretch your legs, sprint to the loo, and take a nap whenever you want. I also feel a sense of relative safety that I am connected to the earth and not hanging somewhere between the heaven and the hell.

The only annoying aspect of a train journey is that you don’t get a chance to choose your co-passengers. You reach the station, see this beautiful girl waiting for the train, and hope that she boards your coach. Your heart starts pounding when you see her moving towards your coach, but all of a sudden she takes a turn and boards the next coach. And you find yourself sitting next to a grandma travelling for her granddaughter’s marriage.

It happened (and still does) with me every time, except for once. That time I was going to Kolkata from Delhi. I was travelling in a crowded second class sleeper (non AC) of Poorva Express. I could not afford anything else with my peanut size salary. But I was happy, as I saw this pretty girl in my opposite seat.

Poorva Express departs in the afternoon and it’s a twenty four hour journey. Usually, as soon as I board a train, I take a book and move to the top bunk. But not this time. I was pretending to read a book but was desperately looking for an excuse to strike a conversation. I ran out of my luck again. Suddenly, she got up and walked away. She came back in a short while, visibly worried, took out a small pouch from her luggage, and ran out. I, like other passengers, was flabbergasted.

I took my book and went to the top bunk. I was in no mood to have dinner and fell asleep soon. When I got up the next morning, it was rather early and I was terribly hungry. The girl was still not there. She returned about a couple of hours later, with a wide smile — a smile you see when someone is newly in love. My hope started to deflate.

Before I could open my mouth, my co-passenger asked where she had been all night. What she told was a newspaper headline. She was in the next to next coach. Her neighbor in Delhi, who was in her third trimester of pregnancy, had delivered in the train last evening. When she had gone to meet her, the labor pain had already started. The girl was a nursing student and was carrying a small medical kit. She had come back to pick it up. Thankfully there was a doctor in the train. Together they prepared a make-shift labor room helped the lady deliver.

It’s a baby girl and she was named Poorva!

My romance, as usual, did not flourish, but that divine smile remained with me forever!

Photo Courtesy: Pixabay