Field note: Transportation

Updated: Mar 24, 2020


India is connected by various modes of transportation. Recently I had the experience of going from Delhi to Chandigarh via railway... come experience the trip with me!

How do people get around?

People in India often use the railways because they provide a cheap, reliable and efficient form of transportation between cities. Within the city I am based in, many people use the Delhi metro.

Electric auto, the next big thing in India! (google images)

The metro is ideal for cutting across traffic during peak

hours, and each station has easy access to "auto rickshaws" (a sort of taxi, sometimes called "autos"), to get you from the station to your home or destination. Uber is now used, too, and it is very cheap.  For example, a 30 minute ride might cost only four U.S. dollars. 

How did I feel when I tried this way of getting around?

When I first travelled to Chandigarh, a four hour train ride from Delhi, I was struck by the sounds, scents and sights at the bustling New Delhi railway station. People were running to platforms, camping out near ticket booths, hoarding snacks for long journeys and trying to communicate with each other, crying out for "coolies" (porters) to help them with their luggage. I found my platform by listening to the announcements and also enlisting a porter.

In Punjab, fields are burned after crops are harvested

Then I hopped on to the train in search of my seat and paid a 200 rupee tip to the porter after some intense bargaining action. The journey was not too long, and we cut through the rural landscape surrounding the urban melting pot of Delhi. I could see fields of

grain, sugar cane and yellow mustard, with ant-sized farmers and toy-sized tractors tilling their land in the distance. I saw the more modest housing of the villages and even some huts. We passed several bridges while steaming away from the Yamuna River. Later on, after eating the packed lunch offered by the attendants, I fell asleep. All in all, I found it a fast, well-serviced and enriching way to see parts of the country I would otherwise not have seen, while traveling from one city to the next.

Is this way of getting around connected to the culture and environment? How?

Rural house on the way from Delhi to Chandigarh

The Indian railways were set up during the British colonial period and were primarily used for the colonial government's administrative functions and as transportation for freight. The railways have long outlasted the colonial government, and they have evolved today to modify their tracks and carriages to expand access to some of the more challenging topographical areas of the country. For example, for the mountainous regions in the north and northeast, a narrow guage track system has been built, whereas for flat lying regions through which large quantities of freight is transported, a wide guage track is used. Ultimately the railway system is an important platform that has connected diverse regions across India. It serves to help integrate the country and therefore has had a tremendous impact on life here.

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