A ride to cherish: The love for trains – II

Posted on December 16, 2013


For ever since he could remember he liked trains. He didn’t know why, but he was never curtailed when it came to his love for trains. He loved to see them pass, travel on them, read about them and also, sometimes, write about them. He collected ticket stubs with just as much interest as he did cricket cards, the sport being another of his obsessive interests.

He yearned to travel in a locomotive all through childhood. Unfortunately, the closest he got to that was a detailed demonstration – on many occasions across various types of locomotives – on how to run them through his school life, the perks of being an enthusiastic kid. He lapped up those lessons with such interest that even if five per cent of it was channeled for maths, he would have not failed in it as much.

But somehow, this year he was lucky. It just happened and actually in a short span of time. Events started to unfurl at a steady pace, and all of a sudden he was being escorted to a locomotive. He did not know how to react. He called up his parents and told them. They had only supported this rabid craze. His hands were trembling; excitement levels, compounded by the adrenaline rush, were rising by the minute.

And then he took the walk from the last bogie of the rake to the locomotive at the other end of the platform. For every step he took, memories were scurrying past his head, so fast that he didn’t know which one to focus on. Whether it was watching the meter gauge Vaigai Express at Mambalam with his mother feeding him lunch as a kindergarten student or that occasion when he saw an EMU ply on the new broad gauge track between Madras Beach and Tambaram at Saidapet. Or his first ride on the MRTS, looking at the MA Chidambaram Stadium with pride or the first time he travelled on a Shatabdi. Or when he was hell bent to travel in the Konkan Railway, even though he had a chance to go meet his former girlfriend living far away or the first time he went to New Delhi on Tamil Nadu Express.

The occasion was getting the better of him, he couldn’t do much; he didn’t want to. He was soaking in every second of it. As he entered the cabin, he put his right foot forward, a rare occasion when he followed a superstition. The loco pilot had lit a few incense sticks, it was just like the prayer room in his house on an auspicious day, but for the first time he seemed to have conformed to the auspiciousness.

The introductions were made; he looked around the approximately 6’x2’ cabin with childlike glee. Suddenly, a loud whir got him back to reality. The engine was all fired up and starter signal was cleared. The loco pilot said a small prayer, he does that before every journey. The train was moving, the assistant loco pilot was waving the green flag and blowing the horns. The twin tones were just harmony to his ears.

He looked around, pinched himself. A tear trickled down his eye as the loco pilot gave him the license to sound the horns at will. He was very nervous the first time, it took a couple of occasions to get used to the switch. His tears were uncontrollable now, he was sobbing. But it was tears of joy, seldom something made him happier than trains. The loco pilot put an arm around his shoulder and asked why he was crying. For when he can remember, he said, he wanted to do know how it felt like to travel in the locomotive. The loco pilot smiled, he understood the boy’s passion and assured him that it would not be his last journey in a locomotive.

He stood beside the cabin window for the rest of his hour-long journey. Every detail he still remembers of that ride. Every moment he will treasure forever.

Note: Travelling in locomotives is prohibited unless with explicit, written permission from Indian Railways’ authorities. This piece is a work of imagination.