When I started in the morning, I was expecting a “normal” train station, i.e. trains coming in, whistles, hustle-bustle, vendors … you get the drift, right? specially if you are from India 🙂
However, as I took the metro to Union Station, Toronto, toeing my daughter like a obedient student, I did not expect to view a “calm” station. I mean, while the hustle-bustle was there, there was no sense of hurry (in Canada, every one walks fast paced, no time to be laid back, or smell the flower on the way, so that is par for the course), no anxiety for “train chut raha hai” … people were buying coffee from Starbucks, munching into their morning croissants and standing in queue to board the train. Queue? and where was the damn platform? All I could see was a big large majestic looking hall, where train numbers and gate numbers were displayed in electronic boards and people queuing up like good students!! Was this a rail station or what?
After waiting for half an hour, by which time the queue was serpentine and was spilling over to the larger hall outside but no murmur .. no excitement … people were chatting, sipping coffee ….
Finally a pretty girl in uniform came with a scanner in hand to check all our tickets and separated mothers with small children to the front of the line so that they get first priority. We waited patiently to get on to the escalator .. to climb onto the “actual” platform. Ten minutes prior to the departure time, we went up. Every compartment had a male and female attendants who directed and helped people to board. As we got into the compartment, the first slot was for large baggages and we could keep our suitcase there and moved on to our seats.
The seats were quite comfortable, with free wi-fi, charging facilities, etc. The bathroom was large and clean with hot and cold waters, paper towels and tissue papers. I tried to imagine how many people could occupy the floor of this very clean and dry toilet, like they do, in my country, when travelling without tickets!
Canada is a very picturesque country in any case, but Lake Ontario makes it extra special. The rout of Toronto-Montreal passes the lake by, by its length. It’s breathtaking.
As we sat down, we were told by Daniel, one of the attendants, as to exactly “how to break the glass window next to us, in case of emergency” He insisted that we ought not to listen to or watch anyone else but to break the glass, look left and right and then jump!! He was very serious about it. That was a good start of the journey, eh! I told myself, this is just like flying with Indigo back home, one never knows when is it breaking down.
Just break the large glass window with this in case of emergency!!!
We were enjoying the train journey, coffee, croissant, crackers and hummus added to the enjoyment … The countryside is lush green with some farm houses and fields interspersed with small forests… some factories … stations came and went … the train was running one hour late … felt delighted that it happens here too … that too after charging us a lot of CAD.
While everything was civilized and neat and clean and orderly, I kept missing the vendors, the incessant chatter of various people, the crowd, the omnipresent anxiety of what may go wrong, the singers, the stopping of trains and people and coolies jumping in and out … a certain force of life (desirable and undesirable) in a way that only India can do … to thrust life in your face. I am sure, i am sounding like quite a romantic and perhaps I am too … but what i was mostly in touch was that my idea of civility has been alien so far. It was an idea based on largely white Anglo Saxon urban sense of civility that respects private space, respects order, stability, has patience, maintains strict boundaries, manages interface in a very impersonal “personalized” way (everyone asks “how are you” and smiles, even when they do not really mean it). Civility in my country is more warm, more in your face, irritatingly so, boundaries are extremely fluid, cleanliness is a matter of convenience, if and when that exists at all … (i can rattle out all the negatives) but in all that, there is a thread that ties us together. When a person smiles at you, you know it is genuine and warm and not a polite smile because it is civil to be so.
Anyway, soon it was time to get down at Montreal.
Montreal day 1 will come up tomorrow. Here some of the other images before I say goodbye for this post. Do let me have your thoughts. Have you visited Montreal? What are some of your memories of this place?