Thursday, August 26, 2010

Railgadi chuk chuk chuk

Trains fascinate me. My first train travel was as a one year old. The annual two day journey to Kerala was the greatest attraction for summer. As I grew up so did the Indian railways. The steam engine gave way to Diesel and then to Electric engines. But the clamour, melee at stations, the running after TTE for a berth etc continued. Then, few trains had AC coaches, now there are many and more travelers opting for it. But Iam here to relate few incidents of some train travelers of yesteryears.

1.Mr. Bannerjee took the express to Calcutta. At Jharsaguda, the train waited at the station for further signal. The power in the coaches went off. Mr. Bannerjee got down to the platform and dozed off to sleep on a bench that sultry summer night. Waking up, he asked the station master to send a telegram to his brother to collect the luggage at Howrah terminus.

2.Dad was single then. He was returning from kerala after attending the funeral of an aunt. He makes it to Jolarpettai. From there onwards, he has no connecting train for another 14 hours. Has to reach ASAP. He boards a goods train. Makes friends with engine driver, shares his dinner, sleeps on his bed and reaches destination in time to report to duty.

3.There was no direct train to Kerala from Central India. The Keralites in Bhilai gathered for an agitation. I remember riding on the carrier seat of Dad’s Yezdi, the road swirling up dust as hundreds of Malayalis- Hindus, Christians, Muslims all rode on various vehicles to the rail crossing to have a Rail Roko. Years later, I drew parallels when I saw Gandhi – the Dandi March scene. First we got two bogies which were pulled in by some train to Nagpur where it waited in the outer to get hitched on the Kerala Express from Delhi. A year or two later, we got the train Bilaspur Cochin Express which is now extended to Trivandrum.

4.Mr. Mahalingam, Mrs. Mahalingam and three kids board the train. There is nothing maha about Mahalingam, a puny man while wife is rotund and pregnant fullterm. Draped in a nine yard kancheepuram and bedecked with flowers they get on with at least eight small pieces of luggage. Dinner is packed in a typical cloth bag. After dinner, lights go off. At 11.00 p.m, the pains start. Mahalingam swoons. Other passengers now have it on them to pull off a delivery. The next station with medical assistance is a good four hours away. People run along the train in either directions to get hold of a Doc or nurse. They find an ortho and a military nurse who deliver a baby boy on lower berth with sheets as partition from passage.

5.Abdul Salim boards from Kurla terminus in Mumbai. He is a NRI- a poor one. He works as a labourer on Dubai’s prestigious projects. But he has a big suitcase. Two RPF trainees too get on the train. They want some goodies. They ask him to open the suitcase near the toilets for security reasons. Mumbai blasts are still fresh in public mind. So, they let RPF check. The lady occupying the nearby seat is concerned. She asks, “Kyon tang kar rahe ho bechare ko?”( why are you bothering him?”
People look up and want her to keep quiet. The questioning session goes on. The train is nearing Kalyan.
”Tum logon ko sirf uska saman chahiye! Arre logon, yeh bechara mehnat kar ghar kuch laya hai aur yeh nikamme use lena chahte hain. Hamare jaisa hai, Raipur ja raha hai. Kuch karo” ( you guys just want some goodies. The poor fellow has worked hard to bring some presents home and you good-for-nothings want to take it away? Hey people, he is like any of us, going to Raipur. Do something)
”Acchha Raipur Ja raha hai? Phir toh kuch karna hoga” ( He is going to Raipur, is he? Then let’s do something)
A group advances daring the RPF trainees. The train pulls in Kalyan outer. The two get off and disappear into darkness”
”Shukriya mayi”, Abdul salim says, eyes all wet. “ Main toh dar gaya tha” (Thank You, Mother. I was really frightened)


  1. Hmmm I also love train jouirneys .. we used to go t ocalcutta from chandigarh on KALKA mail took 3 days to each .. BUT worth the travel.. Loved it so much fun on trains ...

    NCC days went on trains here and there all over india...

    THe little stories you put up Each one is great..
    1. Mr. Bannerjee :- why he did not sleep on the berth inside he hehe

    2. Dad:- thats good too, and in those days people did help Now i am sure they wont let anyone hitch a ride or will they...

    3:- is good too now a train

    4. a baby born in a train.. what did they name the child ..

    5. and the poor NRI well personal experience on that matter only at airport now that has not changed ...

    Nice one ....

  2. Very interesting anecdotes!
    1. Mr. Bannerjee is very cool!!
    2. Travelling in a Goods Train...some adventure!! :)
    3. Wow! A victorious agitation!
    4. The child must have got a lifelong free railway pass??
    5. Thank God, the poor guy was saved!

    Wonderful post!

  3. Very interesting anecdotes with regards to train travel. I still prefer taking train journeys with extending above one night. They have a charm of their own.

    I particularly remember these two incidents which my uncle had told me:

    1. There was no direct train from Bangalore to Delhi (pre-1987) and hence the Karnataka Express which was inaugurated and coupled with the Kerala Express from Jolarpettai.

    2. Secondly, I particularly remember since there was no direct train to go to Kerala, my uncle told me, that you needed to alight at Arakkonam and wait for the train to Kerala which led to the introduction of the Bombay--Kanyakumari Express.

  4. Your Dad must be a hell of a man!
    Id have loved his adventure trip with the driver on the Goods train
    And the concern and righteous consciousness of the woman on the train from Kurla- how many of the kind are around?
    Loved your post.

  5. Your Dad's adventure was great...and of course Banerjee to brings smiles on our lips...

  6. thats very interesting... different incidents but still related...
    the last one was inspiring... i wonder how many would do that ...

  7. i favourite was the last one. as bikram said, its not changed in airports..
    and the baby, thats incredible.

    btw couple of years back, around 3 incidents of baby being born down train toilets appeared. i was suspicious that it was just made up, to fill space on the web. one appeared in rediff, the other 2 i forgot.

    i think even they the goods driver incident is possible bikram, it just depends on the persons.

  8. Wonderful stories, all, and great use of the train to track how the past parallels the present. Makes one wonder if we're really getting anywhere in this world, increased technology and comfort notwithstanding? This post is thought-provoking.

  9. lol ...awesome stories ...i too have always loved travelling by the rain ..i like it the most when theres a hasome guy around ;)

  10. wonderful anecdotes. I am sure the goods train experience would have been a wonderful one for your dad..I like train journeys, but I prefer road trips more :)

  11. Thanks.It brought nostalgic memories of yesteryears.The travel was uncomfortable those days but we had no biscuit bandits.We had IRRs where we used to run for our meals.It took days to reach Delhi or Calcutta.

  12. Hitchhiking in a goods train would have been so wonderful. I hope to have one such ride :-)

    The agitation, wow it worked huh!!

    You relived some memories. Good

  13. I always wanted to see trains but it never happened before I was 17 and after that, it was Indian Railways all around in my life.
    I love train journeys, I love sitting near the doors and I love everything about Indian Railways. :)

    LOL@ Mr. Bannerjee

  14. Bikramjit
    Hope the baby was not named Rail Lingam:D

    Shilpa Garg
    Yep Mr. Bannerjee could have posed for the Kelvinator ad of yesteryears- The coolest one

    Interesting titbit of information

    Anil Kurup
    Dad lives each moment. Something to eat and somewhere to lie down are his requirements:)

    Let's take a snap now - a natural smile:)

    Only few. But good Lord has distributed them across the world.

    Wise donkey
    Some things seem incredible. but they happen

    Now that's a different angle to view. And the answer to that little question is that we are pretty much where we were.

    Welcome. Vicious need handsome to travel- golmaal combination:p

    Isn't roads a bit demanding on body for long distances

    K Parthasarathi
    Glad you relived some memories

    Yes. The agitation worked.It was too big a group to neglect.

    Tarun Goel
    Me too . I love Indian Railways.

  15. I would also like to mention the train journey to Matheran and the toy train from Kalka to Simla.

  16. We used to look forward to the train journeys to Kerala. Reading tinkle comics and magazines, making new friends on board, jumping on and off the top berth, looking out of the window especially to catch a glimpse of the engine round the curve....

    Enjoyed reading each of those anecdotes. Mr.Bannerjee missing the train, sleeping on the platform, was the best. Or was it your Dad taking the goods train and with it the food & bed of the driver better.

  17. I loved train journeys too.Every year we took the Deluxe express, now named Purva, from New Delhi to Calcutta. It was such an adventure.
    I am amazed after 3 babies Mrs. Mahalingam actually had the courage and the desire to have the 4th child. What a story to tell to Rail Lingam's kids.

  18. Interesting anecdotes..those were the days..when people heped each other and one could trust.

  19. Wonderful as usual.He he...You learn a lot from train journeys. Its a mode of transport where you spend a lot of time talking to strangers and making new friends. Though, I am not sure if that is the case today, as people have found innovative ways to rob people on trains!

  20. Loved your anecdotes.Your dad sharing driver's dinner ! Really want to have a look inside the engine-have seen it only in movies.I have traveled a lot by train in my childhood.It used to take three to four days to reach Delhi from Assam those days .I remember eating all kind of fast food ,railway food (the pickle they served used be so salty),buying stuffs like(phoren ka saman) umbrella,chinese fountain pen,watches.Those were good old days.
    Now we avoid traveling by train because of terrorist threats in this part of country.
    happy Sunday Holy Lama.

  21. I love train journeys too. Each of those anecdotes was interesting. Mr Lingam doesn't sound like the ideal husband :p
    Mr Bannerjee sounds like a mast-ram :D

  22. Hahaha.. :D Train journeys are always fun. You'll always find good stories there. :)
    Sooopar post!

  23. Tarun Goel
    I read and I commented too

    Bk Chowlaji
    And with that we wrap this insighful discussion on railways:D

    That peeping out to see the engine at bends, I still do it:)

    Yep. Rail journeys are nothing short of adventure. Those were the days of family planning slogan Do ya teen. And the Mahalingams just had one more:)

    Yes. Times have changed

    That's overall development of the country. The thieves too are progressing:P

    Don't you miss that? Have a nice week:)

    Destiny's child
    But you must understand it was his efforts that bore fruit:P


    Do we Karthik's brain conjuring up another edge of seat story with railways as backdrop?

  24. Train journeys are almost extinct like the postal system now. I loved both, the planes are so cramped and hurried in comparison..loveed your post, brought back so many memories

  25. That train waiting at the outer in Nagpur, reminds me of the train from Bombay to Kerala, which used to wait at the outer at Arkonam (Tamil Nadu) for a good 6 hours. People used to go out have a bath, have lunch, see a Tamil movie and come back.

  26. Sujata
    Trains akin to postal system, I think otherwise.Trains will live on as one of the best means of transport.

    There you got a complete package with stopover and movies:D

  27. My first time on your blog. I loved your post about train journeys. All the anecdotes were so entertaining. I love the travel elements, but I hate using the train loo even in AC. It mostly stinks, another problem is the terrible train food. The best part is the train companions. I love chatting up with people and one meets a vast majority of them.

  28. Trains journeys are always entertaining. I love sitting near the window and looking at the passing scenery's almost a form of meditation , after a while , your thoughts disappear a bit..

    And delivery in a train ? Does it mean the kid gets free trains tickets for all his life?

  29. Rachna
    Welcome here. And we really need to train people on how to flush the toilet, maybe with a cartoon on reverse of ticket.:)

    True. Gazing out relaxes you, brings peace. And I think the kid might have got some sops like free train travel

  30. for the next couple of minutes I shall spam your comments box :D I was on a long break and realised I have missed so many of your posts :( its like in school one bunks classes coz of fever or first time chumming and comes back to copy all the notes.. sigh.. ok will stop blabbering.
    and about this post I looooouuuurvvvee it :D all intriguing stories. Anything related to train perks me up :) thank you Lama.