It was the quiet train that I had never experienced until my first time travel outside India. It is not the memory that you expect will remain with you for so many years, but that’s the one that I now think of narrating. The Indian train had been a place of social exchange and camaderie. The American train was a means of travel. Why would a train be anything but that?
I had been very excited about going away from home for a while. As I walked about one of America’s most beautiful university campuses, I was not at all homesick. Everyday, you met fellow students, each from another country and graduate life was a completely fulfilling experience. There was nothing more that I could have asked for.
Some months later, I had to travel to Texas from the East Coast to see a cousin and got myself a Rail pass on the Amtrak. I was hoping to see a bit of the U.S. before I went to visit family. I got onto the train. The first few hours were quiet. The day got on, the journey was still quiet. Not so many people on the train, not so many at the stations.
I was travelling alone. I put the book I was reading down onto my lap. The train had slowed down. The voice on the Public address system said: “Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention please. Our next stop will be Texarkhana. If Texarkhana be your final destination, we ask that you check the area around your seats for personal belongings before you leave the train. Also, Texarkhana will be a refueling stop for Texas Eagle train 21 and we will be here for 10 minutes. Texarkhana is on the border of Texas and Arkansas. As we enter the station, our engines will be in Texas and the rest of our coaches will still be in Arkansas. We now leave behind Arkansas and enter the State of Texas. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, the lone star – Texas”. This announcement fascinated me and I was happy to experience life in America.
As I watched the landscape outside, I remembered a conversation with a friend back in India whom I had visited when she was in Ahmedabad. As I packed my bags to leave, she got busy in the kitchen packing some food for me for the trip. “That’s far too much food for one person” I had complained. “This is not for you” she had said. “How will you make friends on the long journey if you do not have enough snacks with you to share?” she said.