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A favourite pastime was watching trains pass and weave stories about the passengersGrowing up in middle class Mumbai in the 1970s and 1980s meant that often your house was adjacent to a railway track. Our morning alarm was the shrill whistle of an outstation train. Our favourite pastime was standing by the window and watch trains pass by and weave stories about the passengers. On days when train services were disrupted, my home would be a makeshift communications centre as people would call up constantly to know if services had resumed. I remember days when trains would break down opposite our home, and we would supply water and other necessities to the stranded passengers.
Our knowledge of train timings would put a railway timetable to shame. Our daily routine revolved around this timetable — breakfast when the Bangalore-Mumbai train passed our house, and afternoon tea when the Mumbai-Kanyakumari express trundled past.
After seeing off our loved ones from home, we would go and stand by the railway track at the appointed time to wave them another goodbye. Sometimes the trains would be inordinately late, but that posed no hassles for us as we were never ever hard-pressed for time. And when the train flew by, we caught but a glimpse of our friend or relative at the door waving frantically with a bright-coloured hanky. The joy that we gained in waving back was boundless. When it was our turn to travel, it was a matter of reciprocal courtesy that our friends wait to wave us goodbye.
This session of goodbyes continued till we grew up and bade farewell to our childhood homes and set out to explore a world where such simple pleasures had lost their meaning.
This article first appeared on www.thehindu.com
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