1. In My Early Years: A Train Buff’s Russian Trans-Siberian Adventure

  1.  In My Early Years

 I love train travel. Ever since I was 12 years old, I traveled overnight train from outside of Bombay to Hyderabad in South India. It was twice a year to the boarding school in Hyderabad, for 6 years till I was 18. I was the only student in the boarding, coming from a distant region to attend school and stay in boarding, and go home in summer and Christmas holidays. All the locomotive engines were steam from Pune to Hyderabad.

At age 18 I moved to USA in 1964, joined my dad and family. First time I returned to India was for 3 weeks in 1987, and most of the travel was by plane inside India, and one overnight train journey. It all started back in 1998, when I took off to India for 60 days. I quit my subcontractor position as a financial analyst at an aerospace company near Los Angeles, and told my girl friend Denise, I want to ride the Indian rails on a mass scale. She encouraged me to take that long trip. I let go of the apartment I was renting.

 So there I went, with a 60 day Indrail Pass, which allowed me to travel on any train, but had to make reservation for a sleeping berth. Indian trains are crowded , and requires lengthy planning. It helped getting reservations on AC2 (Air Condition) carriages on various trains, due to foreign reserve quotas. The longest duration I traveled was on Kerala Express, from New Delhi to Trivandrum. Kerala Express was a 3 day, 2 night travel. The train went through various states, all the way to deep South India. Some were electric engines.

On this trip all the other train journey’s were a one night journey, and did visit few relatives in various Indian states. I enjoyed the 60 day trip to India. This was primarily a spiritual pilgrimage journey. I thought I had a good fill with trains, for a while. I stayed at many hotels close to train stations, about 15 of them. Just before starting my journey, I came across “India by Rail” guide book, and was a great asset.

 

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Diversity of various communities taught me tolerance

Religious tolerance I grew up in India till the age of 18. I was born into an Indian Protestant Christian family. Both my parents were Christians. In India there are several religions. My family and I lived among Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Jains in major metropolitan area of Mumbai (formerly Bombay). I also went to a Methodist boarding school at age 12 in Hyderabad, South India. In boarding school and regular classes, there were several Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist students. I have learned to respect all the religion beliefs while I was growing up.

Religious paths Even though India is 80% Hindus, 12% Muslims and only 2% Christians, being Christian,  I have developed respect and tolerance with other people’s beliefs. All the major religions in India as well-respected other people’s beliefs and upbringing. The diversity of beliefs and religions gave me an opportunity to study various religions and understand them. I lived in the diversified communities with my family. Played with children from different backgrounds and went to school with them. I migrated to USA when I was 18 years old and joined my father, and later my mother, sister and brother migrated to USA. I am happy and proud to live in the diversified communities of India, that taught me tolerance and understanding of different beliefs and religions. This in turn paved in my later adult life to become a non-denominational Interfaith Minister.

Racial diversity Living in USA , in various different communities of Washington DC for couple years, 35 years in Southern California and over 13+ years in Las Vegas, Nevada, I’ve experienced racial diversity of various communities and learned to live harmoniously and peacefully. Me and my family lived in close communities surrounding African-Americans, Hispanics, Whites and Asian. Coming to America has also empowered me to experience various different denominational churches, including Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist. I also learned and appreciated other beliefs which added understanding and tolerance and belief systems in my life. Unitarian, and Meta-Physical churches gave me extensive devotional and meditation experience and tolerance towards all belief systems.

Racial tolerance Living harmoniously within belief systems and various races does provide a sense of peace and respect others for who they are. I believe God works through each one of us and we are an expression of God from within. When we live a life of tolerance, understanding and caring in our communities, we experience joy, harmony, giving, understanding and compassion towards others. We learn about others, when we are open to others respect for who they are.

Blessings,

Rev. Ernie Martin, The Reverend of Love, Las Vegas