The break-up after a long romance
Once, the Railways, the world’s fourth largest train network that connects the remote villages of India to her biggest cities, had a formidable reputation. The people who operated it were disciplined and proud of the fact. Writes Brigadier (retd) Daljit Thukral.chandigarh Updated: Jun 27, 2014 09:25 IST
Once, the Railways, the world’s fourth largest train network that connects the remote villages of India to her biggest cities, had a formidable reputation. The people who operated it were disciplined and proud of the fact.
I loved going by steam locomotive to college in Benaras and, later, by diesel locomotive to the military academy in Dehradun. Going to college, I would stick my head out of the window hoping to feel the caress of air but get only flying coal particles into my face. Drinking tea from an earthen container and eating simple puri-bhaji at the station was romance now gone with the efficiency of the Railways.
I had a bizarre experience once on the prestigious Rajdhani Express going from Chennai to Delhi. At 6am on March 23, 2007, at Chennai, I boarded the AC twotier compartment looking for some respite from heat but got welcomed by a colony of mosquitoes. On the morning of March 24, we got diverted via a loop line from Itarsi because a goods train had derailed between that station and Bina.
Unlike big cars on road, big trains don’t get the respect on small routes, since only the local-train passengers must arrive in time; so while we were stuck at a small station called Salimabad Road, the sluggish trains buzzed past merrily. When the grand Rajdhani was allowed to move finally, it was told to keep slow so as not to overtake the local trains. It took six hours to go 90 kilometres from Jabalpur to Katni.
Keeping a margin for the normal late running of the trains, I had got a seat reserved aboard the Kalka Shatabdi leaving New Delhi at 5.15pm but the Rajdhani, scheduled to reach the Hazrat Nizamuddin station at 10.15am on March 24, got there on the 25th, precisely 16 hours late. The railway staff at Hazrat Nizamudin and New Delhi railway stations said the delay was the fault of not the Rajdhani Express but the passengers who had chosen to travel by it.
No one helped us get a seat aboard the Chandigarh Shatabdi. I got home around noon on March 25 by bus but the ordeal was not over. My wife asked me: “What took you so long? Who were you with?” She wouldn’t buy it that I had been amid thousands of mosquitoes instead of in the company of the one she doubted.
“Don’t blame it on the train,” she said, and so ended my romance with the Railways. In future if I have to take a train, I’ll choose the one that’ll get me home faster than the Rajdhani. Even if it gets wrecked, at least my marriage would be safe.