Originally Published on: Jul 5, 2006
Indian railway tracks and myriads of roads connecting the corners to the neighborhoods holds millions of stories. In my life, like others, I too had many memories scattered on these paths; and in turn I have treasured many an event that I have experienced. These are some of those, a collection of facts, as all what’s there in my abode!
This was in the early nineties, when I was a sales and support executive for a leading IT company, making frequent and long tours all over eastern India. To repair the UPS systems installed in many BPCL depots I used to frequent cities in middle of nowhere. This was a trip when first I went to Malda, a town middle part of west Bengal and famous for its Mangoes. The morning I was supposed to finish my work, I got a message from office that I need to go to Barauni from there – a town in North Bihar, supposedly close and accessible from Malda. I finished my work at Malda within 10 in the morning and came back to hotel, inquired to find that there is a “Fast Passenger” at 1 PM. Asked them to keep a bills ready and wake me up if I fall asleep. As feared I was not awakened in time and I had to rush to station in a cycle rickshaw. I took a ticket and rushed towards the platform, asked the ticket checker at the gate about the train. He pointed towards platform No. 3 and there was it – “Adina Fast Passenger” already started moving, leaving platform no. 3.
I rushed through the over-bridge with my rucksack on my back and the brief case in hand, climbed down the stairs and still had enough time to select a relatively empty compartment to board the “Fast Passenger”. It was supposed to be a six-hour journey. I looked around the sparsely populated compartment to only see a few locals and farmers.
Couple of hours into the journey and I was enjoying one of the most amazing route on single line track, winding its way though farms, gardens, villages and at times it seemed we passed though someone’s backyard. Soon the train came to a halt, the scene outside gave the impression of a mid-sized village, with fences touching the train and windows of mud houses at handshaking distance from the window of the train. The train stopped and didn’t move for at least an hour. Peeking out from the window, I saw a big commotion in front of the train and all passengers slowly getting down and walking towards the front. It seemed almost the entire village was already there. I too got down and walked towards the scene. Soon I found the reason of the stoppage. The train has killed a goat of a villager, and he has squatted on the tracks with other villagers supporting him. He wants a compensation from the driver or the guard, and demanded if required let the Railway minister come and solve his plight.
I came back, and the train started moving after another hour or so. I guess the Panch of the village must had convened and found a solution. The train was already 3 hours late. The evening fell and woke up from a doze to discover there was no light in my compartment. In the pitch darkness of the compartment and matching black outside I waited till the next station. The plan was to get down and change the compartment. After waiting for about half an hour the train chugged in to a station. I got down, stood in the darkness of the platform, watched the train from end to end, to find that it was a train without a single light barring the headlight, which was just enough for the driver to see the track far enough to drive.
I came back to the same compartment and sat through the journey clutching my two luggage. Was sure that there was not a soul in the compartment. Even if there was some, they must have got blacked out by the darkness. The train reached Barauni at 11:15. The tea stall owner informed that it will be futile to go out and look for a hotel at this time. I inquired abut
the retiring rooms, The second class waiting room was just a shade better than a stable, and the upper class retiring rooms were locked, with the in-charge not to be found anywhere. I didn’t have any upper class ticket either, so talking to the station master was not feasible. So I asked the tea stall owner to inform the retiring room in-charge, if he is found and helped myself with the newspapers I always carried. After nearly an hours sleep on the paper spread on the platform with the hordes of mosquitoes, a guy waked me up. He was the in-charge; he took 30 bucks for the first class retiring room; it went to his own pocket obviously. It was a 20 by 20 room, with two single beds, with mosquito nets and a toilet clean enough to be used. He even helped me with a dinner against 20 more rupees – dal, chapatti and mooli.
And that’s how I mostly used to reach Barauni, a “Rocket” bus to malda, and “Adina Fast Passenger” to Barauni, with the night at upper class retiring room.