It was the month of July. I was travelling from Jaipur, Rajasthan to Chennai for an international cultural integration camp by train. The train journey usually took three days and four nights. As most Indians would agree, spending three days in a sleeper coach of Indian Railways is no mean feat. To add to your woes, you are almost always surrounded by different types of people – strangers, to be precise – from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

In my case, I shared my compartment with a few South Indians. Considering the fact that I was unable to understand a word of their conversation, I wished we could have some subtitles in real-life conversations too. Jokes apart, traveling from one corner of the country to another always brings with it a desire to explore the place and make the most of your journey.

Now, those were the days when Androids and smart networks were yet to arrive on the scene. So, I got down at the fourth station of my journey and bought myself a traveling guidebook on Tamil Nadu. It kept me engrossed for a day. Once I was finished with it, I once again found myself thinking about some way to kill time for the rest of the journey.

One thing about Indian sleeper coaches is that no matter how sleepy you are, your co-passengers do everything it takes to make sure that you stay awake too. Their incessant conversation in an indecipherable language meant that sleep was as elusive as quicksilver. Finally, I concerned myself with how I was planning to do away with my boredom over the next couple of days. That is when I decided that only some good books could save me from that annoying situation.

So, I purchased some novels from a bookstall at the Ahmedabad Station. Given the wide range of books on offer, I was actually spoiled for choice. Chetan Bhagat was an emerging writer in those days. I grabbed a couple of his novels, in addition to two others that the stall owner had recommended me. Back in the train, I looked for a side lower and exchanged my seat with a kind lady. Now it was just me, the aromatic fragrance of my new books, and the cool breeze coming in from outside. The frosting on the cake was a hot masala tea.

Now, the one good thing about train trips down South is the scenic beauty that the experience offers. The green color of the trees and the landscape changed its shades as the train raced to Chennai. Between mid-Karnataka and Kerala, this color becomes all the more refreshing for the eyes. The waterfalls, the lakes, the open stations, the tunnels… and, of course, the books, all of them combined to make it the best journey of my life, yet. In fact, in retrospect, it was this experience that turned me into a reader. So much so that by the time I reached my destination, I had finished all four books!

Of course, I planned better for my return journey and bought my books beforehand. Even today, when almost everyone is busy with their smartphones, I love exploring the world through books.

So, that was all about my story. I hope whoever is reading this also finds a way to fall in love with books. If you do that, I am sure you too will have a pleasant and enjoyable journey!


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