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The Last Journey


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  The journey that started on 1st Dec 1915 stopped on 30th Nov 2014. It was the day of the last journey of the ‘Heritage on wheels’. It was in the year 1991 the government of India decided to convert all railway tracks to 5 and 1/2 feet broad gauze tracks, excluding those with the ‘heritage’ tag from the UNICEF (project unigauze). Accordingly came the turn of the 99 year old Katwa- Bolgona narrow gauze train.

It was a day of emotional grandeur. The train was cleaned; decorated with glittering papers and adorned with flower chains and bouquets. The railway staffs were gloomy yet busy with the program; specially arranged for the last journey. The Katwa platform was packed up with fascinated visitors, all prepared to bid good-bye to their beloved ‘Chotobabu’. The train was given a majestic guard of honour. With the scout band rolling and girls blowing conch, the train enters the platform. When the train signed off the station with the guard waiving the green flag, it was something like thousands of well-wishers carrying their beloved next of kin on their shoulder in the last journey. With tears in the cheeks and mourning smile in their face every people from all adjacent villages stopped by the railway track, waiving to bid farewell.

There was no space left to step in any of the compartments. Enthusiastic people and media personnel clogged tight to enjoy and experience the last journey of the small train; the train that will become history the next day. The roof of the train belonged to the young generation. The children raced side-by-side mocking the slow speed of the small train. It is their daily game and from tomorrow they have to find another game to enjoy. Arrangement for a small group of singers, singing patriotic songs, was made in the compartment just behind the room for the guard.

There was a spontaneous gathering of thousands in all station, presenting cultural programs. The driver, the guard and the staffs of the train were honoured with garlands in all the stations. The passengers were honoured with sandal and flowers. It was a magnificent experience to be present at that moment of time in that place of emotional outpour.

I was surprised to find the emotional relationship between a train and the local people. The train was their soul mate, their friend, relative, their companion, their happiness and their sorrow. Once it was the only mode of transport between these remote villages, to local towns, hospitals and markets. This train is the witness of many emotions, many happenings and many unforgettable events of their lives. The train witnessed the groom who went with the party to marry, the new bride who came to her home of in-laws for the first time, the woman who went to the hospital and returned happy with her new born, the students those who hopped into the running train for school, the children those played inside it, the friends those carried their ill friend to the dispensary and returned cured. The driver and the guard were much more than the loved member of their family sharing all their distress, all joy and troubles. That they cannot feel the rolling of the train again, that they cannot feel the presence of their beloved driver and guard-dada have made them upset.

At Koichar I saw an old lady come alone, silently with tearful eyes and touch the train with immense affection and love. It shook my emotion. Man with the sole purpose of benefiting mankind created the train. Then how did this enormous sentiment of fondness and care build up within mankind? It is a sentiment beyond our understanding.

When the train reached Bolgona, the end station, excited people climbed up the train in crowd and almost covered it, making a pyramid of men. At Bonkapasi, the tribal women blocked the track and presented their traditional dance with tribal music. A little girl was seen searching for the guard uncle ( Mr. Biswajit De) with some flower and sweets. I do not know whether she found her uncle or not but I still remember her searching eyes, the eyes with so much love and friendliness towards a person who really cared for them.

When God created life He felt something missing…so He created mankind…pouring in all the missing features … emotion, love, care, friendship and affection. With this gift He also played a trick…He introduced pain. The attachment created slowly through ninety-nine years of togetherness; the emotion developed with growing sensation of love, friendship and care ultimately had to end one day in pain…and the day was 30th Nov 2014…all emotions poured away…in mourning smile and in painful tears.
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