I am sitting at the table of a rooftop restaurant that happens to overlook the train station. The horn blast of an approaching train breaks me out of my cocktail and breeze induced reverie. I walk over to edge and look down at a dull train pulling slowly into the brightly lit station.

Something about this movement hits me. It has been more than two decades since I went on a long-distance train journey. I try to think why I ended up avoiding them for so long. Was it simply too inconvenient to ride by a train compared to hopping on a flight? Or was it the seedy reputation that trains sometimes acquire. You could be robbed at any point during the night so hold onto your luggage for dear life. Watching colleagues attempt to book a ticket seemed like an ordeal that I would never want to go through.

However, the sight of trains always evokes a wonderful feeling in me. Waiting at a railway crossing, I feel the power of the train as it whizzes by. Riding over a railway over bridge I always stop to watch a train pass. When watching a something on the TV those gorgeous overhead shots of trains passing through beautiful and desolate landscapes always brings a smile to my face. When I think of how much I derive from just watching trains without even getting on one, I can only imagine what pleasures lie in riding them.

And just when I steel myself to attempt a journey like this the pandemic has taken hold. As I make my way back to my table I ruefully think. Will it be another decade before I ride on one again? Until then I can bide my time reliving the experiences of others through books like this one.

Books by Monisha Rajesh: Around India in 80 Trains and Around India in 80 Trains

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