I’m in Hyderabad in the mid-1970s. Dawn is breaking. The birds have started chirping. There is a rustle as tree leaves sway noisily in the morning breeze. And then, from somewhere far away, I hear the shrill whistle of an approaching train. It isn’t a single long whistle; there’s a sequence of short and long whistles, and there’s a rhythm to it. The train driver is trying to tell a story and having a lot of fun.

Just listening to the train is fun. And being inside it is so much more fun. As the train gathers speed, it jumps and sways, and twists and turns. If you are trying to drink a cup of coffee, a splash of coffee suddenly colours your shaking face. Is there anything in the world so utterly delightful as the turbulent thud-thud of an Indian train on Indian tracks?

And then I grieve. Where have my train days gone? Why am I, instead, sitting in a cramped plane hidden behind an ugly mask and shield. Where’s my past? Where’s my innocence? Where’s my dear East Coast Express?

Luckily we can still see these dear old trains in the Hindi movies. Gadi (hame abhi bhi) bula rahi hai [1] in Dost (1974) with Dharmendra overcome by nostalgia. And what if you miss the train taking away your beloved? Simply hop into a car, drive alongside the moving train, and shout out oho jiya ho jiya kuchh bol do [2] as Dev Anand does in Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961). It is of course another matter that Kaka did this with even greater charm as a dimpled Sharmila Tagore, reading Alistair MacLean’s When Eight Bells Toll, was bemused to be called mere sapnon ki rani [3] in Aradhana (1969).

Sometimes trains appear in the guise of an ageing Ashok Kumar with rail gaadi [4] in Aashirwad (1968). At other times, it is a get-away vehicle in a lovers’ tryst as in hum dono do premi [5] where Kaka is off with Zeenat Aman in Ajanabee (1974). Trains also bring out your poetic streak, as Jeetendra sings rukh se zara naqab utha do [6] in Mere Huzoor (1968).

solva saalBut my top train song pick has Hemant Kumar singing delightfully for Dev Anand in Solva Saal (1958). Old man Burman is in delightful form and Waheeda Rehman has probably never looked more beautiful. And there’s Majrooh evocatively describing the vagaries of a truant heart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07dfqQ0cvl8

Hai apna dil to awara, na jaane kis pe aayega
[My heart is wayward, never know who it will fall for]

Haseenon ne bulaya, gale se bhi lagaya, bahut samjhaaya, yahi na samjha, bahut bhola hai bechara
[Beautiful girls beckoned me, they even hugged me, they tried hard to explain, but this dumb heart never got it]

Zamaana dekha sara, hai sab ka sahara, yeh dil hi hamara, hua na kisi ka, safar mein hai yeh banjara, naa jaane kis pe aayega…
[I’ve seen the world, I have many shoulders to lean upon, but this heart of mine refuses to belong. The journey continues .. wonder who it’ll fall for]

[1] Dharmendra + Kishore Kumar + LP-Anand Bakshi. Dost (1974)
[2] Dev Anand-Asha Parekh + Rafi + SJ-Hasrat Jaipuri. Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961)
[3] Kaka-Sharmila Tagore + Kishore Kumar + SDB-Anand Bakshi. Aradhana (1969)
[4] Ashok Kumar + Ashok Kumar + Vasant Desai-Harindranath Chattopadhyay. Aashirwad (1968)
[5] Kaka-Zeenat Aman + Kishore-Lata + RDB-Anand Bakshi. Ajanabee (1974)
[6] Jeetendra-Mala Sinha + Rafi + SJ-Hasrat Jaipuri. Mere Huzoor (1968)

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