Since childhood, trains have always triggered immense fascination and joy, and train journeys have always left-away some worth carrying memories that still hold onto. Being the granddaughter of a railway employee, I was always blessed with some wonderful chances to listen to some really fascinating stories about the train journeys that he has taken so far, and about the various railway stations where he had served a major share of his life as a dutiful stationmaster. Now, even in is eighties, I can see a vivid glimmer in his eyes whenever he starts saying about train journeys. I can surely say that I would be the only one in my family, who can give a complete account of all the official & unofficial trips that he has taken in his life, and these stories undoubtedly triggered a huge liking for train travels, which were totally allowable until the last couple of years. Till then, I had absolute freedom to travel in train whenever I wanted, and I never missed any chances that came though.
In fact, the project research phase of post graduation was the time when I had some of the most wonderful train journeys in my life, in the pretext of visiting libraries close by, for project research. Although I did the research part to the best of my ability, I was more in to enjoying those train journeys with my classmates, which gave me a lot of happiness that words can’t express. All of us used to literally rush into the coach to get to our seats, and I always used to manage to get myself a comfortable seat near the window. Whenever I wasn’t lucky enough to get a seat for myself, the upper sleeping berths were my next favorite option, where I can sit comfortably and watch fellow travelers, wondering where they are going and what there story would be. Added to these joys of traveling was savoring the coffees and cutlets that were served and reading my favorite books: both augmented my pleasures to several manifolds.
But all these excitements soon stopped, and there were two reasons behind it. If one was a small mistake from my end, another one was a tragedy that left away a huge fear in the mind of train commuters, especially women.
Let me tell you my mistake first. I was on the way back from our usual library visit, and was walking towards the railway station. Rather than taking the straight roads, I used love crossing railway tracks and reaching the station soon. As usual I was on the way to the station, crossing the long railway tracks when an engine started coming towards us stealthily. It was only when my teacher shouted from the other end that I saw that monstrous looking engine a few steps ahead, all set to trample me under its huge feet. I quickly jumped to the other track and saved myself, but my teacher was ‘merciful’ enough to narrate the whole ‘adventure’ to my dad, and there ended the lifelong liberty that I had for train travel. Sadly, I had to start depending on the jam-packed local buses that were far from being comfortable.
Adding to this mild curtailment was the news report of the tragic night when a twenty something woman was pushed off from a moving train and was brutally raped to death by a beggar. Although it happened a few years back, fears still linger, and again, train journeys became a more distant dream for me.
Whenever I hear the whistle of a train, I still keep dreaming about all the fewer yet wonderful train journeys that I’ve had, hoping for one such to happen again someday.