In old days the means of communication in India were very bad. Of course, there were no railways; and the roads were few, and even they were very unsatisfactory. It was the British who introduced, first good metalled roads, and then, about the middle of the nineteenth century, railways.
Before their time, therefore, there was little traveling; for a journey of any length was a tedious, difficult, and often dangerous business; and trade was local and on a very small scale. Most of the people knew no place but their own village and immediate neighborhood, and lived and died where they were born.
Railways have broken down the isolation of the different parts of India. Even the poor have taken to travelling in the trains, and many of them go to quite distant parts. They have discovered that they live in a very large country with many varieties of climate and physical features, and with many different peoples and races and nationalities.
All this has led to a broadening of the mind, and a knowledge of and sympathy with people whom they used to regard as foreigners. The old village’s narrowness and isolation are breaking down, and the sense of nationality has been born. The railways are like shuttles weaving the different threads of Indian life into one web and pattern.
Railway travelling has done something to break down the barriers of the caste system. The railways do not recognise caste; so people of all castes get used to meeting and travelling together in one carriage, from the Brahmin down to the Sweeper.
Although caste rules are still maintained, this compulsory rubbing of shoulders must bring the members of the different castes nearer together. There is no space to dwell on another important point—the enormous extension of trade, and the diffusion of foreign goods and the produce of other parts of India into the most remote village, which formerly had to be self-supporting.