I think, AC spoils much of the fun of train journey, although it provides comfort that many of us look for। True, in sweltering heat in many parts of the country during the summer and biting cold during the winter, AC is a big relief। There is more of breathing space in the compartment and the level of hygiene is better. But what about the view outside? Through tinted glasses, we can see only coloured outlines of what nature has laid out along the tracks and beyond for us. We can’t really judge the colour of the clothes farmers are wearing while working in their fields. Snow-capped mountains in the distance do not look white. It is our prior experience which lets us imagine what really lies on the other side of the tinted glasses. We can’t hear the sound of birds, animals and insects, calling out to us. We cannot experience the gust of wind or drops of rain on our face. Many of us also miss the hawkers who enter second class compartments with much more ease and the din on the platforms.
There was a time when first class compartments were there in every train. They used to offer some comfort without causing any obstruction. Now-a-days, first class compartments have almost been discarded and the choice is between an AC compartment and a second class compartment.
Given a choice, I will like to travel by second class. It will be somewhat uncomfortable, but the pleasure of watching the objects and people outside in their true colours, hearing the myriad sounds and experiencing the weather will more than compensate for the loss.