i have so many fond memories about india, but among some of my fondest are traveling by train.
when i left canada for india, i had secured a volunteer position with an indian NGO, and funded my travels through working several jobs in university, living at home, and saving nearly all of my money. although i found out when i arrived that the organization was going to provide a monthly stipend, and despite the much cheaper cost of living there, i still wanted to be really careful with my money. i wanted to travel, and i wanted to see everything i could.
in those lonely first evenings in india, as i was bounced around from temporary place to temporary place (before i found my own flat with eight other young, single, women, all of them indian) i read my guidebook, and dreamed about where i’d go. armed with tips from friends from home, recommendations from my new friends at work, and my trusty lonely planet guide, i planned my routes.
buses were cheapest, exhilerating and terrifying at once to ride, but were completely awful for overnight travel. and from my first trip overnight on a train, i was hooked.
i was on a budget, so i travelled the cheapest way i could, which was non-air conditioned, second class. i learned very quickly that a sleeper car with an upper berth was best, because if it was a super long journey, i could have my own space, whereas the poor folks on the middle and lower berths would be forced to sit up during the day (the middle ‘mattress’ in the picture would fold down to be the back of the lower bench).
i loved, and i mean LOVED, sleeping on those trains. there was honestly no good reason for it; it was noisy, and crammed full of people and smells…there were no pillows except for the bundle of clothes or towel you rolled up under your own arms, and it was always hot…but it was the best. it was the motion, i think. it was being rocked, the little bit of breeze coming in the windows, the sweet clackety monotony of the wheels on the tracks, the darkness…i would give anything to ride a second class sleeper train again. to hear its creaks, feel the wind in my face, and be lulled to sleep with its steady, lumbering movement, leaving smoke in its wake.