When Sudhin Ghosh was a regular commuter between Kolkata and Khulna, the world appeared in different tones of sepia. Even the last trip to his hometown in 1949 was at a time when crossing over needed no formalities. After almost six decades, as yet another train leaves the city for Bangladesh, Ghosh's memories are refreshed.
On Saturday afternoons, if someone saw a young boy running towards Sealdah station from nearby Ripon College (now Surendranath College), it was most likely to be Ghosh. A regular player with Khulna Sporting Union's soccer team, he used to travel to his hometown every weekend to play in the Sunday afternoon football match and return to Kolkata for another week of college. And his usual chariot was the Barishal Express, which left Sealdah at 4 pm and reached Khulna at 8 pm.
And if train journeys are synonymous with an old-world charm, for Ghosh the real attraction was chaperoning Shibani, later to become his wife. "In those days, it was unbecoming of a young girl from a reputable Bengali family to travel without a male companion. Sudhin was the son of a family friend and sometimes accompanied me on the trips as my attendant," Ghosh's wife said.
So for all of Rs 1.75, the 4 pm express would take him home via Bongaon. "While we travelled in the third-class compartment, the first and second-class compartments had higher fares, between Rs 10 and Rs 14, and were off limits for poor Indians like us. Those coaches were meant only for the British and Indians who were either affluent or on government service," Ghosh recalled.
A lot of smoke has been belched out since the Barishal Express galloped over the tracks to Khulna and travelling on a locomotive has passed on to the pages of history. Even as he toured the country as a journalist for over four decades, travelling on that locomotive still bears the romance of wanderlust for the octogenarian.