Many times down the history, it has been observed that taking a break or diverting from the main line proves productive. Even a thought along these lines has the propensity to provide necessary solace. With such a resolve, an attempt is being made to remember a recent anecdote concerning a popular means of transport that not only binds but also unites
I begin with the premise that too much of air travel followed by occasional journeys by fast moving trains in the artificial and air-conditioned settings had got into my nerves. An opportunity to avail of movement in a slow motion, therefore, turned out to be not only educative but it also had definite shades of a potential eye-opener. At the end of the day, one gained, recovered, felt satisfied as also rejuvenated.
When I got into the historic Darjeeling Mail in the evening of 7th July at the NJP station, the train was very much on time. Subsequently, it became ‘behind schedule’ by forty five minutes. One felt rather happy as the train was originally to reach my intended destination of Burdwan at the odd time of 4.00 hours. Rather isolated yet congenial atmosphere inside the A.C. compartment led to a deep slumber of roughly four and a half hours.
While I was in the process of attending a call of nature at the unearthly hour of 3.15, the silence of the fast moving train was suddenly broken by the desperate utterances of a middle aged Sardar Upjit Singh, who seemed to have over slept and missed, in the process, getting down at Malda between 2 to 2.30 hours. I could do nothing except to sympathise with him. Apparently, his business fatigue during the course of the previous day had taken its toll. He had, perhaps unknowingly begun cherishing life in a slow motion, some thing, I too had aspired for long.
We extend a helping hand to each other while getting down at Burdwan at dawn. My immediate hunch was to look for a connecting train for Dhanbad/Gomoh/Kodarma. Upjit’s immediate priority, however, was to move as fast as possible in the reverse direction. On getting the desired information I began pulling my bag towards the ticket counter on the rear side of the Platform no. 1. The ‘Maldavian’ Sardarji, however, appeared lost in the partial darkness of now crowded Platform No. 6, perhaps, not to surface again.
An irritating standing posture of twenty minutes in a que under somewhat unhygienic conditions, ensured me a ticket for Gomoh on payment of Rs. 28 only as compared to Rs. 400, I had paid for the preceding journey. Once again I dragged and lifted my bags to Platform No.3 and began my imminent wait in a slow and certain manner for the Shuttle scheduled to depart for Asansole at fifteen past five hours. In view of the fact that I had brushed my teeth inside the clean bathroom of Darjeeling Mail, I richly deserved a steaming hot Rs. 3 a cup of boiled C.T.C. tea. Some cookies packed generously by Dawney gave me the much needed company. I did doze off a couple of times while glancing through the morning Kolkata edition of the Times of India. I also learnt a bit about the glitterati of the ‘den’ of the Bhadra-Lok and the Babu Moshais.
Compared to the railway stations one had seen in the recent past, this one looked spic and span. The ramp connecting the platforms was a welcome development. It once again strengthened my resolve in the dictum “slow and steady wins the race”
Passengers in general showed exemplary behaviour when the daily Shuttle arrived at the scheduled time. Hardly any one ran helter skelter. Adequate time was available to refill drinking water bottles and procure pouches of Uncle Chipps, Kurkure or Lays to take care of the immediate needs of the tiny tots and the elderly alike. It was after a long gap that I was bestowed with an opportunity to avail of a short distance daily train having robust wooden seats. The non-A.C. compartment, in addition, had sufficient space on the racks above.
In no time, the train began moving. The view of green paddy fields having Palm, Mango and Pipal trees here and there, looked very soothing even to my sleepy eyes. My drowsy appearance received a lift on suddenly spotting the glory of the rising sun at the end of the horizon. It was akin to dark pink sight of the colour of a Flamingo which got transformed into a light pink, irresistible colour in a matter of seconds. The scenario was so pleasing that I desired to have a correct mix of the feeling it from within as also to capture the wonderful spectacle into my tiny Firang camera. A couple of memorable shots were possible primarily due to slow movement of train. I may confess honestly that I received unavoidable set back between the stations of Talit and Khana when the all pervading and unassailable monarch of the day (an ultimate source of all energies) played hide and seek in view of occasional emergence of the houses, trees and electric poles.
My photographic forays bore a distinct comparison with a similar encounter with the Sun God when I saw him emerging at Taki (North 24 Parganas) from the
I give myself a break to swallow a tablet and a capsule prescribed to regulate my ‘jumping’ heart and fluctuating B.P.. At Galsi Station (5.45 hours) an old couple make a quiet entry. Their innocent looks appeal to me. As a matter of courtesy I shift my bag so as to make them comfortable. My inquiry reveals that the old man by the name of Bamkin Chandra Chattopadhyay was to get down at Paraj Station (a 20 minute journey) while Konkana Sen Mukhopadyay, his decently dressed life partner was to continue upto Mankar. Latter was visiting her daughter who had recently become a proud mother of a chubby male child.
It further transpired that the public transport system in the area was available at cheaper rates but a journey by a train was considered more comfortable, relatively cheaper and was devoid of the Goondas and the Dadas who regularly throng the dirty and congested bus stands. Further, possibility of a theft and harassment was also less in the Shuttle, remarked a bubbly and youthful Aparna Sen before detraining in a 'filmy' style at Managarh.
On completion of an hour of a slow and congenial journey, the train touched the crowded platform of Rajbandh. A sizeable number of passengers pushed themselves into the compartment even though it was full to capacity by conventional standards. Nevertheless, the whole experience was becoming lively as I managed to pick up a tale or two concerning the establishment of Durgapur Steel Plant, located close by. Such ‘temples’ of modern and resurgent India set up in the Fifties of the Twentieth Century were the brainchild of a sanguine and dynamic Pandit Nehru.
A group of young and cheerful college students who supplement the account of
In the meanwhile, I divert my attention to catch a view of the moving train from outside when I notice a bend in the alignment. We are getting closer to Kali Pahari. I now notice that Sun has moved further up. It was no longer pink and soothing, rather it was hot and blazing. The gradual reduction in the number of passengers inside the bogie too gave an impression that our imminent destination of Asansole was to be reached in a matter of seconds. Sharp at 7.15 hours we manage to touch the Platform Number 3 of Asansole. Like at Burdwan, there was no hue and cry. Decent and polite behaviour on the part of poor looking passengers amply reflected the richness and magnanimity of their hearts. A few of them lend hand willingly when I attempt to lift my bags.
In retrospect, the whole journey was slow but rewarding. It refreshed and enriched as well. While carefully putting a piece of crisp Son Papdi into my hungry mouth, I begin preparing for the next part of journey by another slow motion, yet, lively Burdwan-Hatia Passenger. It is raining cats and dog when I make myself comfortable on an empty bench of the platform.Instead of exclaiming 'Oh it is raining!', I am prompted to utter- 'Aah, it is raining!'. This, perhaps, sums up my spirit.