Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Aromas of Train Journeys

Veining the great Indian landscape, Indian Railways has connected places, homes, families, dreams, careers and more. Many a romantic relationship has sprouted  in the rhythmic sway of the cabins as students travel frequently across the country. With low fare airlines, this may have reduced , but trains in India are a journey by itself.

One of the things I always remember about train journeys is the food.  The tryst with food starts from lobbies in buildings, or cabs and rickshaws, where, sitting proudly on top of suitcases, is the tiffin carrier. A steel or plastic or any other metal container packed with cases and compartments of food.

This is usually opened at the first meal hour inside the train, with aromas of aloo parathas ( potato stuffed Indian breads), mango and mixed pickles, oil kissed and smothered potato dry fry, sweetmeats. Newspapers are thoughtfully folded and become make shift mats and trays.

In between meals are the savouries which emerge and are shared liberally with fellow travellers. These savouries  carry the aromas of the region and are absolutely addictive.

The train meals which are carried on trays by the waiters are also quite a delight. So are the hawkers peddling peanuts and fruits and tea in clay pots which can be smashed after the tea- making it very eco friendly.

Each station, or most stations in India are also known for their food specialities. Like puri and aloo ( puffed breads and potato curry) served in dry leaf plates in Jadavpur in West Bengal, pethas of Agra , the lunches at Nagpur station etc.

But what these food boxes carry with them are much more than just meals.
They carry love and the grief of separation, in a nation where families still come first, even amongst youth. Where every departure from home is an occasion for the family, with relatives and friends bidding goodbyes and wishing well. Every journey stands for a moment in life, a purpose- careers, aspirations, home coming- where often one is torn between love and comfort zones and the zeal to go out there and make one's life.

Train journeys also stand for vacations. With the family looking forward to sights and sounds of new places in the country, local tours, shopping, eating and being together.

The meals packed and consumed in the trains add to the celebrations or  act as good consolation or pepping up for emotions of separation, if any.

That is why, rich in emotions, the food in trains always taste like nothing on earth.

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