ZELLA COMPTON: I love India’s railways – despite the annual massacre

Zella loves the atmosphere of Indian railways
Zella loves the atmosphere of Indian railways
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The runaway train sounds rather like the title of a children’s book – probably several – but it’s not something confined to the imagination of authors.

Just last weekend 1,000 passengers were subjected to a seven-mile backwards ride in India as carriages became uncoupled from their engine.

They rolled their way back the way they’d come until, somewhat surprisingly, officials placed large rocks on the line which managed to halt the train in its tracks. I thought large rocks would derail the situation given that wet leaves here come with a warning.

However, in this case, all lives were saved and no one was seriously injured. This is great news as apparently on average about 15,000 people die a year on India’s railways in various ways, a situation that an official describes – via The Guardian – as an annual massacre.

I love the Indian railways. Both times I visited this wonderful country, I rattled my way across the sub-continent in comfort, on big padded seats, with wonderful views out of open windows. I loved the heat, the sellers at every station pressing fresh wares through the windows – coconut slices – and those on the train wandering up and down with hot and cold drinks. Some sold chai, a hot sweet tea, out of clay cups which were flung with abandon out of the window to melt back into the earth from whence they came. Costa has a lot to learn from that trick.

There were perilous moments, but I felt invincible in the sunshine, hanging out of open doors as the countryside whipped by, to experience wind in my hair.

I was less confident squatting over an open hole in the floor above the tracks passing underneath, hoping not to either slip up in other people’s effluence, or indeed slip out via other people’s effluence.

The worse time for me though was sleeping on a top bunk, in bunks of three. I climbed down as the fan in the ceiling above lazily circled. At the time I had very long hair, which caught on the fan. So there I was, half down a ladder, in the middle of the night, with my head being pulled around and around albeit quite slowly. I had to be cut out of that situation, but really only my pride was hurt.

I get the impression that the Indian railway system needs a tonne of investment to keep going. I sincerely hope that the country manages to save its national treasure, make it less perilous, but also keep the spirit there, whatever the runaway costs.

SAME OLD IDEALISTIC DREAMS, SAME OLD REALITY

There’s a new centrist political party in the offing with £50m of funding, ripe for taking the best ideas our politicians have and developing them away from political party bickering, bias and bastardising.

Sounds great doesn’t it? Especially as our main parties have already been quoted dissing the idea in national press.

Seemingly this is a group which is committed to great plans for the country rather than being restricted by party politics, and having to support guffawing baboons from back and front benches.

I suppose that’s what the Liberal Democrats once were until they sold their souls for a pauper’s seat at the table.

I can’t wait to see who this new lot are, funded by philanthropists and business people and – oh wait – those with an agenda.

Is there a utopian ideal? I fear not.

SO MUCH FOR EGGS – THE CHILDREN HATCHED OTHER PLANS

What better way could there be to spend the Easter break than swapping furniture between the children’s bedrooms?

Well, I can think of a hundred or so happier things to do, but sadly the offspring hatched their plans before I could do anything about it to change their minds.

You’d think changing bookshelves would be easy, but of course it never is simple is it?

Because with that comes the next problem of who has which trunk, and who has which desk, and where the most hideous furniture will end up as no one at all wants it, and how most stuff ends up in my study as I haven’t wanted them to throw it away.

So once again it’s my problem to deal with. Marvellous.