Romance On Rails (Updated)

A Vignette

Thirupparaithurai, our village, flanked by an endless roll of lush rice fields on one side and by the river Cauvery on the other, is some miles (<10) from the town of Trichinopoly (Trichy) – a place we spent some part of our annual school vacation (the rest in nearby Srirangam).

At the back of the sprawling house, some 100 meters away, ran a single train track, straight as far as we could see, to/from Trichy from/to Kulithalai/Erode (for some reason the track is not doubled even today and the station, sadly, stands decommissioned, overrun by weeds and vines, for want of traffic).

The track served a few long-distance trains and a couple of local trains for office-goers from villages around.  Standing out among them, even today, is the Pilot that fetches the commuters to Trichy in the morning and returns in the evening.

In those days it was widely rumored how the powerful bus operators were pressing on the railways to schedule the Pilot in a way it did not draw the crowd away from them during the busy hours! It may not be out of place here to mention the state has excellent network of bus services – you could go from anywhere to anywhere any time of the day (of course, some restrictions apply!).

It was for us an eagerly awaited daily experience to hear the whistle of the Pilot in the distance. We ran through the back-door of the house , past the long and full cow-shed, huge hay-stacks, the water-well and the toilet – yes, in those days toilets were located far back outside the house – to reach the back-door of the property. Beyond, the ground dipped into a grassy ‘valley’ to rise on the other side bearing the track, all within about 15 feet.

Standing at a safe distance from the track, we kept our eyes peeled and hands free and ready. First it was the dadak-dadak rumble of the wheels on the rails, soon followed by the puff-puff smoke-belching steam loco, slowing down as it neared a road-crossing and then immediately the station. As the loco passed us, we would frantically wave and shout to the driver to get his attention; he always stood on the side and leaning out to look ahead for safe passage – there were always people footing it across the tracks in a hurry even when the gate at the crossing was down barring road traffic and the train was almost there.  

For a few seconds, he would take his eyes off and look at us, return our greeting with a wave of his hand, his coal-blackened face breaking into a smile – enough to get us thrilled high!

We wouldn’t move until the train, after a halt of a minute or so, whistled and slowly pulled out of the station. A sad moment it was for us as it slowly receded from our sight and we trotted back to the house wordless.

Of course it was all forgotten soon as other distractions kicked in…until the next morning.

**

For some reason, a railway train, particularly its steam, diesel or electric loco has been and is even now a sight that fascinates many, evoking awe at the machine and its brute power and speed. An enduring romance.

The Mumbai artist Biswas captures it on his canvas like it is!

From his profile:

Kishore Pratim Biswas lived near a locomotive workshop in Kolkata when he was a child. It was very easy for one to spot steam locomotives every now and then, and as an enthusiastic 5-year-old kid, he loved to run out and watch them go. He would then come back home and sketch what he saw. A giant locomotive surrounded by steam – the aura of that scene attracted him tremendously, and inspires him even today. The firemen and drivers at the workshop became his friends, and they would usually gather around to look at his sketches. He remembers listening to their stories and trying to sketch all their emotions on a piece of paper…

He graduated in Fine Arts from Government College of Art & Craft, Kolkata, spent a few years in his hometown, and then moved to Mumbai in 2009.

Here we go:

Update

After Kannan’s idyllic description of the scene near IIT, Guwahati (see in Comments), I had requested him for a few snaps. He kindly obliged with the following:

Here’s the strange thing with Agthori, perhaps unique in the vast railways network: the lone platform – seen in the pic – is some 300 mts away from the main station and its entrance! It seems the Station Master’s office and the entrance would be moved nearer to the platform once the land needed nearby is acquired.

Also if the train were to stop in front the present Station Master’s office, it would be required to go back a good 200 mts at least before moving forward and picking up enough speed to go over the slope ahead.


A view of the Station Master’s office at the entrance 


A view of Agthori railway station from the road over the bridge near IIT entrance gate.
A view of IIT staff living quarters

The locals n and around prefer to commute the distance of 20 kms to the city by road and, yes, a ferry across the mighty Brahmaputra!

End

Source: thebetterindia.com/42929/locomotives-paintings-by-kishore-biswas/

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