The tranquility I feel in the noise of railway station makes me lose my words, it’s like the unanswerable query of your favourite perfume. You fail to explain the smell of freshly cut grass or the pain one feels when love is lost, cravings for feelings that only the comfort of mother’s lap and a rainy walk can gratify. I first traveled on a train a year ago with a friend of mine and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Little did I know that this old-school soul trapped in a modern era body will never settle on a single rail trip.
Once I booked a sleeper ticket to travel the long route from Multan to Rawalpindi. There are two people in a sleeper, it’s a normal compartment with two sleeping sofa berths, I was in luck as my second seat was empty too. Yet I only spent 30 minutes of the 13-hour journey in my sleeper. I kept wandering about, exploring, sitting in different compartments with strangers sharing stories like long lost friends.
My wanderlust in general and this mode of transportation, in particular, helped me on my quest to find purity in humans. I learnt a lot from the people I met, had a conversation with many people and made friends on the train. It’s like going back to my village and getting wisdom from the ancestral heritage of chopals and hujras.
The “ch-ch-ch” of the train as she leaves the station chugging down the rail, slowly picking up her pace like a pony starting to canter gracefully. Then once the journey begins she starts to gallop, a wild horse in iron bound shackles running at her master’s command.
The best part of a train journey is the freedom, no other transport system allows you to wander about so freely. From the power cabin till the dining cabin and canteen, I am a headache for the railway guards as I keep opening the exit door when the train is moving and they get furiously mad if you do so while the train is at normal speed. So when I can’t find any company (on a single occasion only) I play hide and seek with them. You never run out of things to do. The stops at different stations familiarise you with the cities as you pass along them, the rounds of chai now and then completes the ingredients of a perfect journey.
Train Stations: The Beauty of the End
But the zenith of the journey is at the stations. As the train nears its destination, a whistle is heard, like a forlorn call in the night, the brakes screech and hiss as the train slows down to a stop. A sentimental end of a wonderful journey. I see a man kneeling down hugging his son, his wife standing beside trying to hold back tears of joy, I see the pride of a father as he looks at his son leaving home, becoming the man he always dreamt of being. Reunions, goodbyes, tears and smiles and all the raw emotions sating my hunger as I walk out of the station with my cap dangling behind my backpack waving ‘so long’ to my dear friend as she whistles in reply.
Credit for the featured image goes to Muhammad Danish Khan. To see more of Danish’s photography visit his Instagram @iamkhandanish