Apart from AC, I have been able to identify one more spoiler of the charm of train journey- food served in compartments. There was a time when long train journeys used to be accompanied by big baskets of food. All conceivable food items used to be there inside these magic baskets- breads of different types, pickles, potato chips, curd, chutney, cooked vegetables, biscuits, fruits, sweets, snacks… Just prior to the train journey, kitchens used to be hyper-active and no one seemed to mind packing luggage along with doing a lot of cooking. All family members used to look forward to the train journey so that the fruits of labour could be enjoyed. Preparation for the train journey was no less enjoyable than the journey itself.
People could hardly wait for the train to start. Old newspaper sheets were quickly spread on the berth and out came delicacies from the basket one by one. Food was shared freely with co-passengers. Even those who boarded the train basketless in the hope of finding some benevolent basket on board were not disappointed. Offer of food used to be the starting point of any cordiality among passengers.
Often, baskets proved insufficient and needed to be heavily supplemented by what hawkers had to offer. The dictum that one must enjoy one’s food was fully observed during train journey.
Although people still carry baskets, things are fast changing. In many trains, freshly-cooked food is served. With a large number of people, carrying food during train journey is no longer the in-thing. They like to eat the food served in the compartments even if they do not find it palatable. Also, sharing food is fast becoming a thing of past. Except for packed food, every thing is looked at with suspicion by co-passengers. They avoid taking any risk even if they feel tempted by the baskets of their co-passengers. Such people rather look out of the window and comfort themselves with the beautiful visuals they can see outside.