Riding a Train in India

Riding a train in India is always an experience. Exhilarating, harrowing, communal or deathly tedious - the experiences vary, but the ride is almost always memorable. Back in my old wanderlust days, after college and before children, I was hardy or foolish enough to withstand journeys spread over days in third class carriages fitted out with little more than padded wooden benches. I remember compartments brimming over with people and the remarkably courteous, almost genteel, way that we all cohabited in that tiny space. There were seemingly endless stretches of time when a train would stop in some barren, dry landscape. Of course, there were no announcements as to why or for how long. Local villagers would appear as if out of the shimmering air, bearing food and trinkets to sell to the passengers. Hours later, the train would give a lurch and resume its slow pace toward its destination.