The Curious Case Of The Indian Railways

As one of the world’s largest railway networks, Indian Railways have been connecting the people of India since 1853. Even with platforms that have been homes for the homeless, dirty tracks, the ever increasing crowd, the chaos and haphazardness and any other not-so-positive stuff, there’s nothing that can put a dent in its image. There’s still so much romance, nostalgia and emotions that Indians

Indian locomotive class WAP-5 (30006)

Indian locomotive class WAP-5 (30006) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

associate with trains. Airlines might shut down, but the railways never have, and I’m fairly certain they never will, suffer a dip in popularity. Indian Consumers are quite an emotional lot that way. And this makes advertising in India all the more difficult.
Such is the drama associated with train journeys, that all Indians have a story to tell when it comes to trains. In fact, some of our most famous bollywood scenes revolve around trains. From the iconic “Jaa Simran, jee le apni zindagi, to the more recent Geet missing her train in Jab we Met and roaming “Ratlam ki sadkon mein”. And who can listen to “Chaiyaan Chaiyaan” without thinking of trains and train roof tops.

And not just celluloid, when it comes to real life, what is true for life is true for an Indian train journey too – there are no guarantees. Your ticket may get confirmed, or you might be waitlisted and would have to travel with an RAC ticket. The train might be on time when you leave for the station, but chance are you’ll reach the station and the barely audible announcement will tell you that your train is 2 hours late. You will carry your luggage and make your way to platform number 12 only to be told that the train will now be coming on platform number 6 instead.   And nobody knows for sure where your coach will stop.

We’ve accepted this uncertainty as part of the travel by train experience. There are some things we will not have control over. But whatever we can control, we do with extra care. Take luggage for instance.  There is no 20 kilos weight limit. You can almost carry your 2bhk home into the train with slight variations. Achaars, water thermos,  packets of puffed rice, blankets, radio sets and a range of other useless and useful things that tuck themselves conveniently in those huge metal trunks and suitcases that are counted every 5 minutes and  secured by chains and locks.

Whoever said that the journey, not the destination was important was not thinking about travelling in India. Here, we will adjust five people in one berth in a sleeper class train bogey. We will fit 12 people in a tiny maruti 800. A family of five will easily balance themselves on a scooter or motorcycle. We have people crossing the tracks on foot to reach the other platform quickly. The journey, however uncomfortable, is just a means of reaching the destination.

No other brand captures the essence of India as beautifully as the Indian Railways. The railways are a microcosm of the India we live in- where the palace on wheels and garib raths coexist, where chai and conversation flows freely and no matter how crowded it gets, everyone’s welcome. Any creative agency in india would be more than happy to be a part of the never ending journey of the Indian Railways.

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