All hopes of summer holidays dashed, children say they will miss train journeys
New Delhi: From Agra's petha to Mathura's peda, train journeys have a completely different meaning to children, who count not just the stations during their travel but also the regional delicacies they offer.
Often restless, they wait through the year with incredible patience for the summer vacations to indulge and set themselves free of their daily routine.
Sitanshu, 8, has looked forward to May every year when he would travel from Delhi to Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. But he is a little disappointed this year.
He has got an infinite number of days at his disposal but is not allowed to step out of his home in Noida Sector-41.
"I was studying hard thinking about the vacation but this summer is bad. I hope coronavirus dies soon," said Sitanshu.
His friend and neighbour Revati agrees with him.
"I would travel to Bilaspur (Chattisgarh) every year to visit my mami (aunt). On my train journey, my father would buy me Champak and Chacha Choudhary comics and I would read and re-read them on my way," said the eight-year-old.
Many children especially miss their train journeys which they treat as a medium to see new things and meet their cousins and grandparents, said Rabia Hasan, a child psychologist.
"In many cases these train experiences whether it is the food they eat on the way or the comics they read remain with them for the rest of their lives. Right now, the parents must ensure children are given attention and they are not allowed to play video games as a compensation as these two things cannot be compared," she said.
What is perhaps weighing more on Sitanshu and Revati's minds is that they cannot understand why their favourite trains will not run during the summer holidays.
The Indian Railways is yet to decide when it will start operations, but it is allowing bookings for train journeys after April 14, the day the lockdown ends. However, fear and uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic have kept travellers away.
Data accessed by PTI showed as of April 4, there has been around 2 lakh bookings for travel per day between April 15 to April 30, immediately after the end of the 21-day lockdown, but it has dipped to around one lakh per day for journeys in May.
In fact, during the summer holidays when it is rare to find a booking on any train, the lowest number of tickets were booked this year. For May 26, only 77,000 tickets were booked, followed by May 28, when 67,847 tickets were booked, and for May 28, when 73,180 were booked.
While it is parents who decided to stay home, it is also them who need the break.
Sashi, a homemaker in Delhi's Mayur Vihar, says she misses her "yearly break".
"The summer vacation used to be the time of the year when I would unwind. Go to my sister's home and have some time for myself," Shashi said.
Varsha Rajora, 48, calls the period from May to June her "me-time".
"It is that time of the year when I live for myself. Being a housewife is a full-time job and we too need a break," she asserted, bordering on the frustration.
A resident of Mayur Vihar Extension, she had planned to visit Shimla but had to cancel due to the lockdown.
"We are not sure when the railways would start its operations and the danger of coronavirus also looms. There are all kinds of rumours, so we decided to cancel the plan and stay home. Better safe than sorry," she said.
India is under the biggest lockdown in its history with all 1.3 billion people asked to stay home for three weeks in view of the coronavirus disease which has claimed more than 200 lives and infected over 6,000 people across the country.