The Man from Madras Musings boarded the train at Egmore station, reflecting on how dirty this once pristine terminal had become over the years. Nothing had however prepared him for the filth in the compartment that he got into. Mind you, it was an upper class coach and MMM had paid quite a bit for the ticket. These are days, as you know, when flight tickets, if booked in advance, are actually cheaper than train tickets. It is just that MMM was sorely tempted to enjoy a leisurely train journey. He had a good book with him and looked forward to reading it, falling asleep and waking up in time the next morning to get off at his destination.
But the dirt was something else. The window pane had not been cleaned in years evidently and, peering through it, MMM could make out a very brown Egmore station in which people appeared to be walking about at midnight, even though it was only early evening. The cabin that MMM sat in was steeped in darkness and no pressing of any switch got the light to work. MMM complained to the attendant who said the electrician would look into it. When? Shortly. Would that mean after the train had left or before? He could not say.
The train then moved and, suddenly, a few minutes later, the cabin was flooded with light. MMM’s co-passenger said that this often happens and proceeded to deliver what appeared to be a very learned lecture on strange behaviours among light bulbs he had known. He was waxing particularly eloquently on an erratic tube-light he had been fond of, when the cabin was steeped in darkness again. MMM’s co-passenger was rather discomfited at this and while he gathered his bearings, MMM went off in search of the attendant.
The man feigned surprise that the matter had not been attended to already but, to do him credit, he came at once, armed with screwdriver and a spare set of bulbs. He proceeded to swing his impressive bulk on to an upper berth and once there began a series of complicated manoeuvres into which all passengers were drafted. MMM was the man who had to periodically press the switch to see if whatever it was that the attendant had done, had borne fruit. MMM did his best though he did get confused as to when to switch ‘on’ and when ‘off’ and switched on when the attendant said off. The net result was that the attendant sprang to the ceiling with all his hair standing on end like quills on a fretful porpentine. Order was restored when MMM switched off the light. Thereafter, this task was entrusted to another attendant who coordinated perfectly with the first man.
The light bulb was partially fixed – to the extent that it worked like a disco strobe light – flickering on and off at rapid intervals. Some suggested an online complaint and this was done. A reply was received stating that the matter would soon be attended to. Die-hard fans of the railways cheered. There was talk of how the railways in India catered to a vast multitude and the number of passengers at Egmore station in a day equals the rail-using population of England in a year or some such dubious statistic that routinely keeps popping up on social media. Under the circumstances, ought we to trouble railway officers over a mere bulb? MMM’s fellow passenger embarked on a lecture about how nobility and commitment to action was a strong trait in Indian Railways. But of action there was no sign. By then it was time to go to bed and so the lights had to be switched off anyway. And so that was that. Who said train journeys are boring?
Those fancy numbers provided by railways meant only to choke our already crowded WhatsApp space…..but, optimists that we are, keep falling into the trap and keep messaging unflustered ….There’s a huge nostalgia thing with the Indian Railways…what to do!
Sometimes one wonders whether states such as Tamilnadu are singled out for special treatment when it comes to Railways since many other parts of the country have more of modern LHB coaches while Southern Railway in general and TN in particular seem to be behind. Strangely, ICF is in Chennai but seems to be sidelined when it comes to allocations and others are preferred. Even within SR, in a state like Kerala, the improvement in Rail infrastructure, facilities and number of trains over the past couple of decades is nothing short of dramatic.
Are our elected representatives of the state doing anything about pressing the case of their consistuency in New Delhi with Ministry, Railway Board etc which is what other state representatives are actively doing ? Even in the days when there was a Union Minister of State for Railways from TN, very little was done for the state. When everysbody is busy enriching themselves and their cronies & party, where is the time for such matters of the people and state ? Not that it requires a great deal for a working light bulb or a clean station – again in terms of railway employees who work sincerely and their effective supervision, including ability to pull up errant subordinate staff, things seem to be on constant downward slide, where the three monkeys philosophy takes over. Maybe the time will not be long when the fate suffered by Telephones Department will befall this august Institution of Southern Railway and glory days will be in the past .
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