Wadi. Guntakal. Bhusawal. Mhow. All of these are places I’ve passed, either on road or by rail on my way to bigger destinations like New Delhi and Bangalore.
These names evoke images of a slower, more relaxed time. You jumped off the train for a quick stretch of the limbs, maybe a quick cup of steaming hot chai. You looked in at the A.H.Wheeler, eyeing the Archers and Ludlums on sale, maybe picking up a magazine as consolation on the way back to the train. You had pohe at a roadside dhaba near Mhow and heard stories from more knowledgeable people on how it was a big military base. You wondered about the sudden explosion in hoardings related to pareshani? and advertisements for “Ashok Clinic” as the train hurtled northward passing Bhopal and Gwalior.
All that is gone now, replaced by security checks at the swank Terminal 3 in Delhi and cups of Nescafe from a machine at Pune’s tiny Lohegaon airport. Getting from place A to B in India in under 3 hours is transformative. However, what of the romance that every Indian of a certain era attaches to rail travel and roadside dhaba food?
It’s not all bad. Productive business dealings in distant cities can now end with you sleeping in your own bed. The bulk of short vacations need not be spent in trains or cramped bus seats, increasing your options and actual vacation time.
This isn’t a lament of a tangible loss of some kind. One always has the choice of taking two extra days off work to make a journey by train instead of flying. However, what I do worry about is the loss of perspective. The rich have always been different from you and me, and now they (and this group does include me) needn’t even see the rest of this fine land.
We finally have our own version of flyover country.