Rs 20 is peanuts today. But it was precious in the lowly paid pre-Emergency era when a man's take-home was barely Rs 150 a month.
That's the reason why BL Dikshit, all of 93, wants Yusuf Khan alias Dilip Kumar and the makers of his 1974 hit Sagina to repay a 35-year debt. Sagina, an intense drama on labour movement in the backdrop of World War II, was the Hindi remake of the Bengali Sagina Mahato by director Tapan Sinha of Safed Haati and Kabuliwala fame.
Unlike many of his retired colleagues of the 125-year-old Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), Dikshit remembers everything associated with “life along the historic track” to the last detail. And memories are often painful, like the Rs 20 he had provided for the Sagina crew to start shooting in 1971, the year before he retired as permanent way inspector (PWI), a designation later changed to senior section engineer.
Much of Sagina was shot in and around Tindharia at 2,822 ft housing the DHR workshop that maintains coaches, locomotives and rolling stock. “As the PWI, the responsibility was on me to liaise with the crew. One day, Sinha and Dilip saab approached me for permission to use a railway inspection trolley for shooting,” recalls Dikshit.
Use of railway trolley warrants a safety bond. “Since the crew was busy shooting, I was requested to complete the formality. I caught a public vehicle to Kurseong 20 km uphill and paid Rs 20 for a non-judicial stamp from the local court,” Dikshit says haltingly.
Sinha apparently promised to reimburse Dikshit, but forgot. Does Dikshit want the “Tragedy King” and Sinha to repay the Rs 20 with interest? “I am not Shylock. I just want those gentlemen to keep their promise and give me back the exact amount,” he maintains.