The train started dot on time, and the next stop was Rawalpindi station, which is quite a treat to visit as a tourist. The old station seemed far less crowded than the mad house that I recall from my childhood, but still had an air of the British Raj about it. The railway restaurant, waiting rooms, and the now seemingly unused retiring rooms made me nostalgic for the time when travel was an adventure. The train went through a verdant landscape, click-click of the carriage lulled the boisterous boys into calmer activities like reading, looking out of the window at the changing landscape and watching the sequel of their favorite movie, Home Alone, on the LCD TV that actually worked. We were also able to connect our own USB stick with downloaded movies, and watched BBC’s excellent Planet Dinosaur. We had brought along a hearty Iftar, although the railway staff was also serving it.
It was dark when we arrived at the Lahore station, and spotted the infamous golden arch of a fast food joint, but the kids could not to be dissuaded from getting their burgers. The ice cream was also quite good. Pakistan Railways served a reasonably good meal of mutton curry and naan. As the train pulled out and the night set upon us, the boys fought for the top bunk beds, but with the lights off, the clickety-click of the train lulled them to sleep. At times the train seemed to pick up speed, and by early morning we were in Rohri, and entering Sindh. Filling the train’s water tanks took longer than usual, and for the first time the train was behind schedule, but only by about half an hour. Breakfast included omelet, toasts, jam, and tea, to wash it all down. Sindh’s landscape was stunning, and very different from what we had seen so far; the Indus River seemed smaller than its furious version in KPK, like the genteel Sufi culture of Sindh. Also consistent with the state of governance of that province, water ran out in our train carriage’s toilets, and we had to do our morning ablutions in the neighboring carriage.
Just twenty-two hours since the start of our journey, we rolled into Karachi, and the city welcomed us with amazingly large heaps of garbage. We arrived at the Cantonment railway station looking more refreshed than those who had come to receive us on the hot and un-shaded platform.
It was a memorable and enjoyable journey, especially as it was done with the family. But there is room for improvement: the first class carriage should have attached toilets with each compartment, and a dining car is a must in any long train journey. Having said that, kudos to Pakistan Railways for reviving this romantic and environmentally friendly mode of travel after decades of neglect.
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