Have you traveled by train in Pakistan? I myself have never had the opportunity to do so. Partly because my father was an airline pilot, our family received a number of free tickets, both local and international, annually so any travel meant my first choice was by air. There was one time when I was a final year student at Sir Syed University and a number of us had entered our final year projects at the national software competition at FAST university in Lahore (believe it’s called National University of Computer Sciences now.) Everyone else took the train, but my father got me an airplane ticket and also made sure I stayed with my uncle, instead of at the student housing with the rest of the class. I think it was because there were hardly any girls on the trip, or at least that’s how I remember it. Anyhow, that was my one chance to take the train and I missed my station. [I have to warn my readers. I have a penchant for corny humor; something my near and dear ones are well aware of and I cannot resist an opportunity to drop the cheesiest one-liners, as and when the opportunity arises.]
Back to the trains. The other reason I was not jumping up and down for an opportunity to travel by train were the less than glowing reviews from people who had taken the train in Pakistan. Recently, a friend from Lahore, a journalist now based in the U.S. told me how the last time she took a train, the Karachi Express, there was an accident and her mother had to pull some strings with folks to have her flown back to Lahore on the only available flight, which was packed. Never again, she said.
It’s funny because, despite never having traveled by train in Pakistan, I had had the chance to take trains in other countries. I was no stranger to the London tube and my mother took my brother and I on it whenever we visited my Mamu. Indian movies would show trains, very much like the ones in Pakistan, and it all looked so romantic; especially after DDLJ (Dil Waale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge) came out, a super hit romance set in Punjab in India, where the climax scene involves the heroine running to get on the train as her lover who is stretching his arm out to her as the train picks up speed. The images led me to romanticize trains in Pakistan. Every time we would drive by the station in Karachi, I would dream about taking the train one day.
So finally this year, it seems, I will be taking the train, in fact a number of trains at from various stations throughout the country. Which is not a lot. I recently checked out a 1980s map from the New York Public Library and was dismayed at how very few railways lines there are, maybe there are more now as that is an old map. Watch this space for more updates on that front.
Trains just reminded me. My other interaction with trains was Thomas and Friends. I loved that show. It was an illustrated children’s series produced in England and exported around the world. Have you seen the show?
Do share your own experience traveling by train in Pakistan.