Namkom is a small station situated in the periphery of Ranchi (now the capital city of Jharkhand state). Being completely new to the place, I spent my initial day in Namkom with my brother-in-law, then working with FCI, Ranchi. As a Station Master of Namkom, I was eligible for the railways staff quarters. When I joined, I was informed about the limited number of railway staff quarters at Namkom and were completely occupied by the existing staff. So, I was forced to find a private accommodation for initial few months. Soon I accustomed to the town and with the help of my relatives, I found my own adobe in Punjabi Mohalla close by Namkom station.
Getting transformed into a Railway Person
There was no comparison of Namkom station with Bhutgoria station. At Namkom station, every facet of railway service was available – the parcel, general ticketing, reserved ticketing, goods of general merchandise and the defense deal, a ramp to load/unload the vehicle, and oil sliding of Indian Oil Corporation. Learnings different functions of railways operations (earlier it was only goods at Bhutgoria) helped me to transform myself as a matured railway professional.
Working at Namkom made me witness the Railway gazettes, commercial circulars and others for the first time. Mr NG Mitra, a pleasing personality carrying vast knowledge of Railways, was the Station Superintendent and my first in-charge at Namkom station. But soon, Mr Mitra was transferred and Mr G N Ghoshal replaced him as the new Station Superintendent of Namkom Station. I was fortunate to be placed under Mr. Mitra in the initial few days as he helped me to learn some critical lessons of railway operations, I wish he could have stayed a bit longer as there was a lot left to learn from him. Mr. Ghoshal though was a knowledgeable railway professional but unlike Mr Mitra, he was not able to earn the respect among the station staff, which in my view was because of his cunning behavior.
When i was at gun point
I went through a dreadful event on one of my night shifts at Namkom. To understand this incident, it is important to know some details of railways operations at that time. Being a small town and that too a tribal area, during those days at Namkom, the life seems to go under hibernation after sunset. We were 25 staff members posted at the station working in three shifts (0800 hrs to 1600 hrs, 1600 hrs to 0000 hrs and 0000 hrs to 0800 hrs). All the staff members have to work on rotation basis under these three shift timings. At that time, India Railways didn’t have online centralized passenger ticketing and goods freight collection system. All the ticket sales as well as goods freight were collected locally at the stations (nowadays limited collection takes place at the stations and that too only for cash purchase of passenger tickets, everything else is online and centralized in nature). To secure the collected funds, every Station Master was custodian of keys of the vault placed inside the station building. Every evening, after passing the last passenger train, the collected goods freight and passenger ticket money was deposited with the on-duty Station Master who was responsible for securing it inside the provided vault. Later, the money was handed over to the Station Superintendent who post preparing the CR note, send the collections to Kharagpur in a secured railway chest.
While looking at the level of security within the railway station premise, I always feared that the collections are vulnerable to theft or burglary. Soon my apprehension came true. That day, I was on the roster for 1600 hours shift. All the collections were handed over to me were kept inside the vault. At around 2100 hours once the last passenger train departed, Mr Ghosal, who was on duty, prepared the CR note and kept the cash in railways chest. Soon, three young lads with covered face entered my office and asked us for the vault keys and forced Mr. Ghosal to open the safe. I believe, the three guys were observing the transactions at the station closely, because they were completely aware about the vault. But they were not aware that the money goes in the railway chest post preparation of the CR Note. Fearing that the guys can shoot us, we handed over the vault keys, but soon all three became highly aggressive after finding no money inside the vault. In frustration, they kept their pistol at my head and threatened to shoot me and my porter Mr. M Kar. One of them also hackled Mr. Ghoshal, who fearing any mishappening silently handed over the money inside the chest to them. Before we could alert Government Railways Police (GRP), all three were gone with the wind. Mr Ghosal was prompt and assile, he transmitted a message to all concerned and soon the Railway Police Force (RPF) and GRP personnel were at site of crime to investigate and nab the culprits. The GRP/ RPF sniffer dog played his role and lead the investigating team to a place near Swarnarekha River. The team found the bag bereft of money. The next day, the news spread like wildfire and people started raising fingers at us. The GRP inspector Shri Ak Sinha, was very experienced in investigating such crimes. With his effort soon the culprits where caught at Chandil. Police took us to Chandil to identify them. A TI parade was done at Birsa Munda central jail and thus truth won over false allegation and we were relieved.
Getting another promotion in Family!
At Namkom, life was teaching me various lessons on one hand and adding feather in my cap on the other. Soon, I was blessed with my fourth kid Kittu. He was born at Seva Sadan in 1985. It was Kartik month and chhath festival was being celebrated. Anju went through labor pain and I requested railway surveyor for a vehicle to carry my wife to hospital and on way pick up her bhabhi from Kanta toli. All these happened with the blow of wind and soon I was holding the little bundle of joy in my hand.
I enjoyed working at Namkom, taking keen interest in shunting of wagons in goods shed yard and formation of racks, ticketing etc. I always read the circulars gadget and rule books kept at station and this brought perfection into my working style.
On personal front, I was deeply engrossed in the education of my kids. Soon, Deepa and Rupa (my daughters) got admission at Carmel primary school in Lowahdih in class 1 and Kindergarten respectively and in 1987 Prashant also join the school kindergarten.
Another turning point was in 1987 when my father left us for heavenly adobe. He expired at Patna, while I was at Namkom. My landlord at Namkom, was kind enough to help us in getting a bus for Patna, as by late night there was no train for Patna. Those days where tough and I have to labor hard to give comfort to family and stand perfect in my profession. Apart from station duties, I use to drop and pick children from school and helps in some domestic chores as well.
In 1990, Kendriya Vidyalaya opened its one branch at cantonment area in Namkum bazar and my all three children were shifted there for education, soon kittu joined them.
Transforming Quarter into Home!
Finally, in 1990 I got my Railway quarter and shifted there from private accommodation. The quarter was full of discomfort initially. But it is said if you have the will and love for the place you can convert any place into the heaven on earth. With gradual and consistent persuasion and diligent work the quarter got repaired and rectified. Me and my family worked hard to make the place worth leaving and soon the quarter was our home.
The land was fertile enough and it gave me an opportunity to fulfil my interest of horticulture and floriculture. There we got the love of little furry creature also, Yes, a puppy became part of my family and we named him Gale. There was panic when we lost him once but soon was relaxed when we found him. My wife Anju who was basically a dog hater, accepted Gayle presence and to our utter surprise later she brought another dog Grisely. Everything was good and manageable with dogs, except for the time we went out. At times we took Gale and Grisely to Patna also.
My service at Namkom was from January 1985 to November 1998. Then, I got transferred to Hatia as deputy station master. This happens with the initiative of transportation inspector Shri DN Tiwari. The job at Hatia was tough and exhaustive, demanding constant attention and pressure.
*The life at Hatiya saw many colours. On professional front I became quite busy but at the same time my kids were doing pretty good in studies, my eldest daughter Deepa’s marriage got fixed, my son Prashant got admission in SPA, Delhi. The life was giving me many moments to celebrate.
Stay connected for all these stories in details, how I was coordinating between the 6 cabins, operating at Hatia yard? How the marriage of Deepa got fixed? How I managed the finance for admission of my son in SPA, Delhi?