How to Have an Indian Train Adventure

Indians are not much into adventure sports or thrill seeking. We don’t have an ‘India’s Funniest Home Videos’ with people getting hurt right in the crotches or skate boarding on hand rails and taking a tumble. Indians aren’t into such sort of thing I guess. If we did have a show on similar lines, it would have videos of Indians crossing the road, hanging from over crowded buses or Indians trying to board a local train. Our everyday lives are so full of adventure that we don’t go seeking thrill rides or jump from cliffs unless we are feeling suicidal.

Recently, we have the phenomenon of the bored middle class Indian who find their weekends mundane and not facebook ‘like’ worthy. This crop would love to have a bungee jumping cliff within a two kilometer radius from their house because who in their right mind would willingly battle traffic on the weekend. To these novice adventure seekers, my advice is to revisit the general compartment of the Indian trains. A journey by the Indian general compartment is cheap and full of adventure right from the moment you try boarding the compartment. Some Indians do travel this way on a daily basis and never complain about mundane weekends.

First you need to find the perfect spot which is not too much to the right or left. It should definitely not be in the middle, as the middle is where the commuters will alight and you might be alighted before you got a chance to board. Having a spotter helps, they can help you push into the compartment and also safeguard against any last minute change of mind that you might have when you see a large able bodied woman wielding a big handbag alighting right in front of you. Some veterans might suggest dropping a handkerchief or magazine from the window before boarding to reserve your spot on the train but many times you might be left without a kerchief or magazine once aboard. In case you plan to try this trick, do carry a spare handkerchief aka hanky to wipe your hard won sweat once you are inside the train and find your spot occupied by a man pretending to be asleep.

Once you are inside the train, you have plenty of choices for seating. The most favored seat is on top of the luggage rack as rarely people will ask you to skooch and make space. The next available option is the regular seat which will always be full capacity and you also have to be wary of any young child who might be asleep on the luggage rack and hasn’t yet got a hold on bed wetting. The other options are the floor on which you can lay your magazine and sit or near the toilet. If you have decided to embark on this adventure during the holiday season then do practice sleeping while standing before you go ahead. Usually if you manage to snare a window seat, you are in luck as you will be pressed against by a human only on one side and you have the option of sticking your nose out of the window from time to time.

Always carry dry snacks/ food for this journey as you might not be able to use the restroom as much as you like, it will most probably be occupied too. If your destination is the last stop then alighting is the least of your concerns. You will automatically be alighted with zero effort on your part. But if your destination is somewhere in the middle of the trains itinerary, the author advices some rock climbing lessons before you go, as you might have to traverse above peoples heads holding on to luggage racks and hand rails. The alternative is to change your destination to the last stop. Never be tempted to board the luggage compartment of a train as you might have fish baskets dripping brine over your head and those can be very difficult to rid of from your clothes and hair

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As adventurous as an Indian train ride can be, the network that the huge Indian train system covers is amazing. Also the fact that no matter how much money you have, you can travel in India. This is not something we can take for granted as it is not always the case in some developed countries. So once you have brushed off the dry snacks from your hair that fell on you from the guy sitting above you, you can recount your adventure trip to your friends. You also will have the option of posting the pics live as the trains have wifi now!

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3 thoughts on “How to Have an Indian Train Adventure

  1. I think Indians/South Asians get transformed when they immigrate to North America…they become adventure seekers. Well, Immigrating is an adventure itself –if you have the right attitude.

    I can’t believe some people in India don’t do crazy risk oriented things outdoors…

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    1. Oh No! Indians are always doing crazy things, we are jumping off moving trains, running and catching buses, hanging from said over full buses. Just that you wont see them wearing knee pads and helmets and being organized about it.

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