Like most people, I hold my childhood memories close to my heart. If someone reminds me of those carefree days, I become emotional and go on a nostalgic trip. Of all the childhood memories, one stands out quite vividly: my fascination for trains.
I was so attracted to the world of trains that if anyone asked me what I would become when I grew up, I would proudly say: an engine driver. My answer became so popular that even now, my relatives jokingly remind me about my innocent dream.
I remember one incident where I had proudly displayed my 'train fetish'.
As my home at Khasa in Amritsar was near the railway station, I knew the timings of the two trains that went past daily. I would, without fail, catch a glimpse of the trains by either rushing to the terrace of the house or dragging my uncle to the station.
My chachaji, who knew about my fascination for the mighty engine, introduced me to the station master. On several occasions, I would convince my uncle to board the train that was bound for Attari, the last station before the Pakistan border. We would hop onto the train and go to Attari, and then board the same train back to Khasa.
My fascination for trains did not end there. My favourite game, as a child, was 'train-train'. Using chalks, I would draw rail tracks on the floor in our grand courtyard. My friends Biru, Shindi and Balkara would play the role of bogies, while I would be their engine. I would lead them up and down the courtyard and would occasionally double up as the station master and make announcements about train arrivals, departure, delays or cancellations.
To give a 'professional touch' to the game, I would make the domestic helps act as coolies in my make-believe railway station. This game became a hit even among relatives who would come visiting from abroad.
Whenever I met them, they would gift me a set of train toys. I still cherish and preserve the expensive old engine that was gifted by a London-based relative decades ago.
My love for trains was such that on family outings, I would pray for all railway crossings to be closed so that I could catch a glimpse of the other train speed past.
As I take a trip down memory lane this Children's Day, I thank my chachaji for being so patient and helping me board the magical train to childhood whenever I want to.