Scent of spring in snow: Travelling with Dr. Zhivago


 Train journeys are philosophical.

They are magical and transformative!

The black horse drawing the coupés diligently over terrain rough

The fearsome mouth belching fire that shines in the dim night

The burning coals being spread over the receding land

Embers few flying down in the outstretched hands of kids/adults alike

Train journeys—a visual delight, inspiring a canvas or a song

People getting up/down

Embraces loving and farewells warm—and teary for a mother waving only son to the battleground!

Locomotives weave their own tapestries across time-n-space

Puffing up, red-eyed, these horse-machines arrive at the termini

After a long travel across the denuded hills, vales and dusty plains;

Friendships get promptly forged, new perspectives formed over life;

From a window open or barred, the passengers watch

The rolling countryside or bustling cities and towns;

Platforms big or small have got their pull on a fevered mind

The retreating cabins; the red signal down; the sharp whistle sound

And the beckoning mountain ranges or looming forests talk to you

In that fleeting instant!

Dawns/dusks never look the same

Solitude and pure heavens paint them so different!

You see universe travelling with you on such wonderful nights!

Life is motion; not stasis—it is called evolution.


Mental journeys can be equally illuminating—if done with your favorite fictional characters!

You learn a lot about histories, heroic struggles and human condition in lands and time distant.

The very act of reading can resurrect such epic journeys done on trains for a promise or Promised Land.

Chapter 7 of  Dr. Zhivago details one such spectacular journey that intersects the grey realms of fiction and fact, and, a past that is present.

Travelling across the vast plains of Russia in an overcrowded train

With the Zhivagos for a distant Varykino can be an unsettling experience in 2015:

Conscripts; the displaced, the exiled, peasants, the landed gentry—all disparate Elements flung together in their compartment by the force of circumstance

Everybody fleeing from something/somebody in a nation convulsing;

The long train hurtling down through a Red Revolution not properly understood; Bewildered, anxious; a part of the stratified humanity melted as a single unit in the crammed space.

Various sights, sounds, smells and colours are seen across the Old Russia in upheaval and bloody change—now forgotten except this literary document of a crucial age.

Another crucible of our times!

Frightening for some!

Comforting for others!

Journeys same; yet so different.


Chapter 22.

And then Dr Zhivago, fleeing from past, remembers the spring, looking out of the window of the compartment, in the midst of a gloomy place!

Spring resplendent!

With its hint of change.

Spring in the air.

And you too recall a spring now forever lost in an urban sprawl and smog

A spring remembered looks more romantic than a real one.

Dr. Zhivago is trying to flee from the logic of history like others

A futile effort!

One can never flee from one’s destiny.

Some people get caught up in the cauldron of history and   cannot escape the effects incendiary

A family displaced, running to their old family home, stuck at many stations

Witnessing violence and change in an old system on the brink;

And then doctor-poet remembering the spring in the expansive white of the snow

Two seasons collide in a single moment!

Spring indeed had arrived in his exploited land!

On a personal level, doing this long trans-country train journey with Dr.  Zhivago,

The reader is subtly reminded that we carry our own springs within.

Some train journeys— forever remembered/ inscribed!

They are wonderful expeditions of discovery and self-discovery

On the tracks

Magical in effect—Alice-like

And deeply transforming!

(Credit: —

This entry was posted in Poetry on by .

About Sunil Sharma

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 22 published books: Seven collections of poetry; three of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award---2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015. Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA: For more details, please visit the blog:

7 thoughts on “Scent of spring in snow: Travelling with Dr. Zhivago

  1. Jagdish Singh Ramana

    I have read I part of the poem yet and I’ll be back to it in a little while.
    The Ipart is full of beautiful images, chatching the hearts of the readers as if they were there in the train: it shows pictorial power of the poet.
    “Train journeys—a visual delight, inspiring a canvas or a song” yes of coarse.
    A philosophical note.
    “Life is motion; not stasis—it is called evolution.”-Optimistic and motional.

  2. Jagdish Singh Ramana

    Journey with books is great experience. Part II travels through Old Russia blended with spontaneity. This part resurrecting the souls of soils!

  3. Jagdish Singh Ramana

    Blend of seasons, philosophic.
    “They are wonderful expeditions of discovery and self-discovery”- the poem is also a wonderful expedition of discovery and self-discovery. A great piece of art that entertains profoundly.

  4. Louis Kasatkin

    The casual reader will find this to be not only ambitious in its scope,but a veritable portmanteau of historical exegesis.Conducted with the author’s customary poetic acumen and delivered with astounding aplomb.

  5. VijayNair

    A splendid , philosophical,allusive,and evocative poem filled with interesting and profound observations. Another in the line of insightful ”Train’ poems ,including Larkin’s ” The Whitsun Weddings”and Vijay Nambisan’s ”Madras Central.”


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