Palace on wheels

There is simply no better way to see Rajasthan In fact, it became so much a part of the local folklore that than by rail. Each destination is conveniently the painters of the frescos in Shekhawati began to use the.connected with the other, there are overnighters motif of the train in their wall paintings, especially when as well as day trains, and because these are not covering long, linear spaces.busy, commercial routes, there is little chance of being The railways, in Rajasthan, were privately owned by delayed. That is the sheer practical side of the arrangements, the maharajas. For people cut off from the rest of their own but on the other, there is the chaos, colour and confusion on state, the railways became a link to a life that they could the trains that is so amazingly interesting. Women sit in not even begin to imagine. So far, the camel had truly been groups, their faces veiled, as they bring railway carriages to the ship of the desert, but now they had an iron monster bloom with bursts of colour; mendicants move up and down that wheezed and puffed but carried them across m the aisles; men puff at biris, the leaf-wrapped smokes they increasing comfort at a small price. The princes, on the enjoy, while gazing out at the scenery outside. part, attempted to build as many railway stations as the The countryside outside offers a glimpse of the Rajasthan could, so that the hinterlands of the desert were no longer most visitors never get to experience, because they are neglected. Which is why, when you sit in your carriage and usually being rushed from one sightseeing trip to the next look out at the dunes, the spread of fields, the silhouettes But the railways bring back the romance of travel, allowing of camels as they plough furrows through the sand, at you to experience the people who actually make up the land. children playing a rudimentary game of cricket by the A railway journey is no sterile account of a voyage undertaken tracks, and at women gathered at village wells, you cannot devoid of the living colours and sounds and tastes in an miss the number of tiny, immaculately maintained enchanted land because it places the visitor firmly in touch stations which the trains whiz through. with his environment. Who gets off at these stations? Do trains ever stop India was one of the first places to g1lin from the here? There are a large number of small trains that criBs. railways. The British government in India saw its utility in cross the countryside, the equivalent of what are called terms of moving soldiers and armamerits, but for the people 'locals' all over the world. Though they run to schedules,

It became not only a means of transport, but also a symbol and obviously keep them, the manner in which they roll in. of unity. The great Indian railways ploughed tracks across and wait intermittently at stations, seems to create the the soil of the land and knit several mini-cultures together. feeling of a lackadaisical, whimsical service, all the more. enchanting for the people crammed there is nothing else to equal such that dips over a few low sand dunes into the carriages. These are no an experience.. far in the distance. As you wait for a luxury trains, most having only the How much have these railways train toCQmein, you will hear the basic second class, most With benefitted Rajasthan? There is no vibrations first, the initial stir of wooden seats, though they are now easy answer to that, especially in excitement. Then, in ihe distance, increasingly padded. These are not the context where, of course, the shimmering through the haze of the trains your travel agent will ever practicality is already understood. heat, the diesel engine will come into book you into, would evellbe shocked But seat yourself at an isolated view -till a few years ago it would if you asked, but for the gricer, or station, if you will, perhaps With an have been steam -tooting a whistle anyone else who is interested in the earthen pot of hot, sweet tea in your to clear the tracks before it bustles !rt'P~t. mm~n!'e of railway im!rnpvs. hand. and gaze out into a barimn importantly up to the platform. As the entire train winds into view, it brings with it an unexpected rush of adrena1in. Why this should happen is difficult to explain -trains, after all, are common place all over the world. But here, in this isolated pocket, it still carries the pioneering spirit that must have first surfaced in the 19th century. In the rush of people as they stretch their Jimflg at the platform, fill water bottles, bargain with the vendors, or embark and disemabark, the railways as one of the great achievements of mankind is firmly established. In Rajasthan, the railways are part of the great romance of the land.
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