Whenever I hear a train whistle or the drone of a plane far overhead, it touches something inside of me.
When I was growing up, my family did a lot of travelling. My father changed his place of work quite a few times before I finished my education (school and college). Then we were away from my parents’ native state, which was Kerala. So, all that meant a great deal of travelling. Every holiday we got, while I was in school, we went somewhere. When we lived in Bombay, there were weekend trips to where one of my uncles lived--in Ambaranath--which was far out then, and later to Kirkee, when he moved there. Often it was to visit my mother’s unmarried sister who lived and worked in Pune for many years. An occasional outing would be to Bhandup where a cousin lived in the quarters of an MNC company's factory. The factory and surrounding quarters covered a vast area, which had a clubhouse with swimming pool and even a small golf course of it's own.
While my father worked in Bombay, every two years he got a free trip home for the family—home being Kerala naturally for my parents. Then we used to go by car. We had a blue Dodge and our driver was a Rajput with an appropriate moustache. Devi Singh was his name and he came with us to Kerala on all those trips.
The trip took around 3 days.
What excitement it was! The car would be packed the previous day. My mother would have packed food for the journey. It was usually vattayappam and erachi ularthiathu (rice cake and beef spicy fried). These kept well. There would also be many hard-boiled eggs, bread, a cake maybe and lots of water--in big containers. Even now, when I think of that sort of food, it fills me with excitement more than anything else.
We would be woken up at 4 am, while it was still dark, which only added to the excitement. We would leave while it was still dark, so that we could travel longer distances before it was too hot (after all that was before the advent of car ACs). We usually stopped for an early lunch at one of the Travellers' Bungalows of that time and rest there for a bit. Then we would travel on till our night stop, which was usually not later than around 8 p.m.
As we had had to have the car windows open, it was dusty. But I can't remember any of the discomfort now. Many of the highways then were lined with shady trees on either side. Sometimes, when it got too hot, we would wet towels and hang them at the the windows, tied to the carrier on the top. I'm sure it was quite tough for my mother. But she was an avid traveller herself. So I remember only fun and excitement. So even today, I love driving long distances.
As my mother loved travelling, even train travel with her was fun. If my father was not coming home, we went by train and those were the days of coal-powered trains (at least till around the mid '60s)But my mother made even those enjoyable. Those were the days of single first-class compartments, with a door to each side and no corridors. Those were the days of travelling with big tin trunks and a huge holdalls which held sheets and pillows. And the food service at the major stations were often served by liveried bearers and served on beautifully laid trays with real china.
I remember one time, we couldn't get tickets on time and we ended up travelling on Christmas Eve, reaching our destination--my mother's home--only late Christmas Day. My younger siblings & I (who were travelling with my mother) were quite upset about that. But my mother put our Christmas gifts on our train bunks late at night and told my younger siblings that Santa had visited the train too!
Lovely memories that have given me a joy in travelling, which I hope I have shared with my children.