Raffae is into choo-choos nowadays. He only wanted to watch Thomas & Friends the other day before going to bed. As I sat there watching Thomas & Friends with him, I started thinking about the trips we used to take by train back in Bangladesh. We used to travel by train a lot, because my Dada (paternal grandfather) used to work for the Railway board. He used to get free passes for the cabin cars!! These were little compartments with bunk bed style seating.
There were rituals to our trips. Bubu (paternal grandma) ofcourse would make sure we had a tiffin carrier full of food with us. Still, we would stop at the Savoy Bakery and pick up pastries, cookies and sandwiches for snacks. Once we got to the station, my sis and I would run up to our cabin to get the window seats. My mom would buy 5/6 magazines to keep her occupied during the journey. My uncle would buy newspaper. He was a student at that time and somehow always ended up accompanying us on our trips to Nanu’s (maternal grandma) house.
Back then, going to my nanu’s house used to take almost a day. We had to change the train twice and get on a ferry too. That was quite a long journey, but we were never bored! We used to stick our heads out the window and look at the scenery passing us by which used to vary depending on the season. In summer, you would see field after field of dry soil. Dry from the heat of summer. During monsoon, the same fields would be under water and little kids would be rowing boats. Sometimes, they would try to keep up with the train. We used to laugh and cheer them on, but usually left them behind in no time. We would see hundreds and hundreds of water lily floating on the water. In autumn, you would be greeted by sky bluer than blue with white, fluffy clouds and “Kash Phool” by the train track. Winter would bring men climbing Date trees for the juice that they store in a clay pot.
We used to play “I spy”. My uncle taught us once that whatever poem you recite on a train, sounds like the train is rhyming away with you. We knew all the station names, big and small, by heart. We knew where to get the best Amra (a type of fruit). The train would get to a big junction right around 6:00 in the morning. We would wake up with all the hustle and bustle. “Deem, deem”. (Boiled eggs. People used to ferry them around in a basket that they carried on their heads) “Cha niben, cha?” (Want tea?) My uncle would jump out and get tea from the station stall and jump back on the train, as it was about to pull out of the station. How scary, yet thrilling that used to be. We were always worried that he would not be able to make it back to the train on time. My sister and I always used to sleep on the top bunk beds at night. I loved lying there, reading a book at night. My body bouncing around with the movement of the train.
We would get glimpses of peoples lives as the train rushed through the villages. Children standing on verandas with sleepy eyes. Men walking towards the pond/river with neem stick in their mouth. Women walking with a clay pot on their head full of water. Farmer pushing his ox and plough in the field under the burning mid-day sun. Bride being carried in a palki, while the groom walked next to it with his umbrella in hand. We would pass by the railway crossings where we would see someone looking up at the train from a rickshaw.
We used to reach Kumarkhali station right around dusk. While my mom and uncle would slowly walk the way, looking at their school, playground where they used to play, my sister and I would run to Nanu’s house. We knew she would be standing there by the front gate waiting for us. Also waiting would be all the fabulous pickles, misti, doi, naru, motka, moa, khoi, ripe guavas, lal shak, dal vorta, bori and lots and lots more.
Childhood. Such a precious time of our lives.