Travelling on the night of rail accident
As I boarded Janata Express from Dehradun on Monday evening, completely drenched (as the platform is not fully covered), cursing the Railways for turning train journeys simply into nightmares, the train accident in Bengal remained heavy on my mind.
My colleague had inadvertently added to my fears by telling me how the same Janata Express had a day before blindly run on an uncharted track for 30 minutes before the railway traffic system, including the driver, realised it was a wrong route.
Thankfully no train had come from the other direction or else it would have made headlines—- so many killed as the driver took the wrong track. Seeing me quite perturbed, he quickly added the train was coming from Lucknow (as if it made any difference).
However, I was sure that people would talk about the accident endlessly through the night. But I was wrong. There was something else in store for me. A dirty second AC coach that had not been washed/cleaned for months, curtains off the rings (used more for cleaning dirty hands than providing you some privacy), and the washroom, simply filthy.
No one remembered the accident as they struggled to settle down with their baggage — water dripping from their clothes as well as their bags; I really don’t know when we would learn to travel light. The little conversation that people made was more on the weather than on the accident. Either they had missed out or perhaps we have got so used to people dying in train accidents that it no more affects or scares us. May be nothing affects us collectively – neither the price rise, nor the rampant corruption.
Yes life moves on! With this I heaved a sigh of relief. The train too gave a jerk—it started crawling. By the time I decided to settle down – throw all disturbing thoughts out of my mind – Haridwar came. I had saffron clad old baba with 18 bags as my companion. He wanted us to remove everything for his bags – the sacred ones as they were coming from Kumbh.
There was no way I could console myself except by cursing the Railways for going from bad to worse. What has Lalu done – railways earned revenue and he some name, giving lectures abroad and in India’s top management schools. Is there anyone asking him today – at what cost?
And what is Mamata didi doing? Will she ever look beyond Kolkata? My colleague from Kolkata sees her as future chief minister of West Bengal. “ She is doing wonders even as Railway Minister- given so many trains to West Bengal,” was his argument even as I wondered if Mamata was Railway Minister for the country or her home state.
But has she? She couldn’t improve Doon Express that brings trainloads of students to Dehradun every year from Kolkata! The condition is so bad that it can’t be described in words. And if this is the case with AC II, can you imagine the state of second class or the general compartments.
As a kid I had travelled second class — even enjoyed chocolates that Pa had given for the train journey. Today one feels like puking at the very thought of food—but why do I say so? There were kids running without shoes, there were families enjoying burgers and pizzas— and there an hungry me, sulking with a sandwich in hand.
To each his own perhaps!