A moving train is a great fascination to everyone especially to the children. But have we ever thought, how the railway man feels about this fascination? In this blog, I will share some of my fond memories of contributing a lifetime in Indian Railways.
After joining Indian Railways, I understood the composition of bogies behind a locomotive in a true manner as the collective efforts of different departments within the railways system. During that time, I came to know, it is the lifeline of a country by transporting the man and materials and enrich the economy of the country. I remember, the 1974 railway men strike which ran for fourteen days was in the headlines of every newspaper and radio broadcasts. The strike had not only crippled the economy of India but it also brought down the moral of railwaymen, who never tried for a shutdown again.
After going through a long period of gruelling exams, viva-voce and psychological test conducted by Indian Railway Service Commission (erstwhile Board) I finally made my way into Indian Railways. I was appointed as an Assistant Station Master (ASM) and for my post entry training, I was placed at ZTS Sini on 1st Aug 1978. Here the training imparted me with the knowledge of rail transportation, commercial aspects like ticketing, reservation, parcel and goods booking as well as telegraph which has now been abandoned. I was lucky to get the job even before completing my Post Graduation (PG) in Political Science. I appeared for my final examination of Political Science in between my training at ZTS Sini. It was tough to go through the rigorous training program of Indian Railways and prepare for my PG examination. I appeared for my PG exam and passed my M.A with higher Second Division. On completion of my ASM training and clearing post training exam, I was relieved from Sini in March 1979. Life then was completely different as compared to the fast-paced lifestyle of today. The biggest asset for a bachelor like me was a small handheld transistor playing old melodies on All India Radio. But still, life then was entertaining, full of fun and enthrallment. I along with my 13 colleagues were deputed at Adra division of the South-Eastern Railway (SER).
The Learning Experiences
Since I was the junior most in cadre, thus was posted at Bhutgoria station of Adra Division. The station located in Dhanbad District of Bihar, now in Jharkhand State. The station is situated in between the coal mines at Jitpur, Putki and Bhutgoria. It is a small station without any public interaction, mainly meant for goods service. The work was predominantly to operate trains for supply of empty wagons for filling of coals and then dispatch the loaded coal wagon to their destination.
Friends and Comrades!
At station, along with the goods train operations, I was also learning operations with special provision based on the topographical condition of the region (mostly sharp curves and steep elevations). We were a team of about 20 staff working at the station. The officer in command was Station Master Shri SK Biswas, a nice gentleman who was often seen teaching his three daughters and doing household chores after duty hours. Shri KD Biswas was second in command after the Station Master. I was not impressed with Shri KD Biswas as in my view he had a superiority complex and an attitude not good for team work. Shri KD Biswas also tried his tantrums with me soon after I joined but at that young age, I was more of a rebel than a partisan. I never bowed to his high-headedness and my rebellion attitude helped me earning some good friends and comrades. Soon my attitude and supportive character was loved and admired by one and all, not only at the station but also in the nearby villages. My Porters, Mr. Jawahar and Mr. Narayan were my ardent disciples along with Mr Jagan, Mr Kishori and Mr Manna from the village.
The Love and Affection
Bhutgoria turn into a felicitation for life. Whatever I needed was at my door step and people there was taking care of my cooking, safety and even alerted me of any conspiracy in advance. My peer colleague during those days was Mr R P Chaudhari, a product of 1974 railway strike, who got the job through loyalty Kota and that was his main quality. At station, it was known to everyone that Mr. Chaudhari and Mr KD Biswas were working together to suppress me. But again, I strong handedly went through every attempt till the time they fall in line to make a compromise. Ultimately, I and Mr. Chaudhari started doing mutual duties which made the life at Bhutgoria easier, by now I had also started enjoying my life at this new place. The law and order situation were pretty bad due to presence of many coal mafias but it had little or no effect on common people. Tug of war between coal mafias was a major issue and stories of shooting and clashes was an everyday affair. But along with common people, we as government officers, enjoyed freedom to move around anytime of the day. The staff members at station who were always there in need was my little family away from home.
Partner for Life – Tying the Wedding Knot
I used to frequently visit my home at Patna. In those days, my salary was Rs 540 per month and I used to give part of it to my mother for her expenses. Being a central government servant and that too in railways (was considered one of the prestigious jobs), it was obvious for my parents to start looking for a perfect match for their bachelor son. Soon they were successful in finding a perfect match. I too agreed reluctantly and got married to Anju on 2nd July 1979. Though I was reluctant with my decision initially but till today, I feel proud. At the time of marriage, Anju was in final year of her BA Hons. She is intelligent and have a good grasp of memory. She takes good care of me.
I was given privilege passes by railways using which after marriage, both of us went to western India. She visited Bhutgoria for a brief period and witnessed the hardship of life and enjoyed the comradeship of staff and villagers. My cousin sister was living at Sindri, about 8 kilometres away from my place and we visited her too.
Beside all these, I had an ardent desire to leave railways and join Indian Administrative Services. My desire of leaving railways and joining administrative services did not encourage me to buy luxuries of life and so I was living with minimal furniture at my government quarter. But even with my best attempt, I failed to crack administrative services examination and had to continue with railways.
New beginning at Namkom
In 1984, there was a large-scale transfer of cadre in Adra division by our boss Mr H K Padhi, people say they have never seen such a large scale of transfer where one and all were transferred. I was transferred too but in addition, I was also promoted as Station Master after dedicating 5 years of my life at Bhutgoria. My new destination was Namkom station and for this I was relieved from my duties at Bhutgoria on 19th January 1985. Staff and villagers of Bhutgoria mourn my transfer. The affection we developed during the past 5 years was quite evident from the fact that the staff didn’t allowed me to carry my luggage. I said goodbye to Bhutgoria after boarding 313 passenger train from Jamadoba to Muhuda station. After changing to train 463 passenger at Muhuda, I reached Namkom early morning at 9:30 hours on 20th January 1985.
*Getting transformed into a railway person, life at the Namkom and being at gun-point and escaping it with a mere chance… stay tuned till next blog for all these experiences.