Monday, July 22, 2013

A dream come true...

Romance with trains is something very close to the railfans. It is the ethos which made us what we are. In the world of railways where everything is mechanical it is the emotions of railfan coming into picture that makes us exist. And this phenomena, this attachment, this bonding begins somewhere, somehow. For me, as far as I can recall, and realise, the Shreeganesh of this emotional attachment was on a dark rainy night almost two decades back. We were having dinner in my maternal grandfather's place. The power was out as one would expect in those days. Normally in smaller places post dusk things used to become quite. Lack of power added to the silence. It was dinner time and we were all having our dinner. Just then a sound was heard. This I later learnt is called a Whistle of a train or a horn. That sound amid the light rains increased and then went into oblivion and was accompanied by another sound which today I would call the clitter clatter of rails. It was clear that a kilometer away a train has gone by from our Naila (now Janjgir Naila) station. As it receded and with nothing much to discuss suddenly someone said.. "Mail hogi". I heard it and then listened it. Question arised what is mail? For a child early in his school days, it was easy and fun for others to answer. I was told in an emphasising manner that it is the train that runs between Bombay and Howrah and is running non stop since Bilaspur (45 kms from Naila). Proper emphasis was also laid on the fact that it runs on time. Always at around dinner time we can hear it pass. The sermons were bestowed as an order, and I took them as a 'farmaan' to accept the supermacy of the Bombay Howrah mail and probably it was expected that next time this topic came up for discussion I should always have a mental note of the punctuality ready.

This particular incident made my mind fly. The mere thoughts like Non stop, fast, on time etc etc led to various pictures in my mind. I was a traveller on Nagpur Tata passenger at that time for my journeys from Kamptee (near NGP) to Naila. And  that led to the first railway comparison for me. The comparison between the pathetic NGP-Tata passenger and the holy Bombay Howrah mail. And thats when the romance started. The awe for the unknown unseen but yet realised. I was yet to see the mail. I had painted countless pictures of the same.

And as they say you always get to hear what you always want to hear. Soon the folk stories about mail started coming to me. I was always delighted rather looking forward to a mere mention. So much grew the attachment that when we were told to write my first telegram in school (not particularly that year but sometime later) I proudly mentioned 8001 Bombay Howrah mail in the subject! And boy how delightful I felt on that day!

Our bread and butter Tata NGP passenger used to depart from NIA at night. And later as I came to know the holy mail used to dash through our station only some time before. How I always ished it to be running late so that I could atleast look at it ones. But as the folkfore had told, you can always bet on the punctuality of mail.

Later on as the days passed and I saw a thing called the railway time table. With my interest growing in railways it looked like a goldmine! And what did I searched for first of all... the Bombay Howrah mail! And as the days progressed I was made aware of a phenomenon called Geetanjali. At first it was hard to believe that something ever was faster than the holy mail! And Geetanjali express was the second addition to that worship list of mine. Somewhere, somehow I always wished to see either of the two. First encounter with Gitanjali was not that far. It was again courtesy NGP-Tata passenger. We were waiting for it in Kamptee pf 1. When that exciting green signal was there. Dad said it could be for the Gitanjali and I then ordered my eyes do all the hard work. I was looking into the horizon as far as I could make out for that headlight of Gitanjali. Soon it appeared grew bigger and bigger with a shrill horn and went going and going. I was already its disciple so it felt as if it was going at a pace of not in a mood to stop. I had seen in that in the TT that it would stop next at Gondia and after two more stops it would be into Bilaspur! So quick I thought and here we were ready to spend more than 12 hours in our Tata NGP!

But still that rubaru with the coveted Bombay Howrah mail was pending. And it happened unexpectedly. I was voca about my love for the mail at home. And my cousins teased me a lot over this which they all considered strange. And then one day the mail silenced all their doubts. We were part of a marriage procession towards Raigarh and came stop at a level crossing. Incidentally some of my cousins (still our school days) who for me dared to dent the supermacy of mail were with me. The wait grew and grew and then the moment arrived. The loco with its beaming headlight passed at a sedate pace. And then just after the loco came the board that I always wanted to see... the board that read crisp and clear "Bombay Howrah Mail"! I literally screamed and looked in awe as the looong consist went by. It might have been a simply a routine pass but for me it was The mail. I looked with awe as coach after coach glided past smartly, The pace was like it was an exhibition. And as it felt to charm its disciple, to rest the doubts of fellow cousins, it went on increasing its pace. By the time its tiny flickering light went out the mail had made its mark. It had made me believe even more so that the love, romance was not misplaced.

And since then it had been many many times I have spotted this magical train. And on most occassions it had made me surrender to its supermacy. The aura of mail is certainly hard in me to diminish! The actual ride on mail came to me after a looong loong time as a person who had crossed his silver jubilee.   

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