The horrible train journey!
I often travel by train in the sleeper class. It is infamous for its discomforts. The number of passengers in this compartment is always above the permissible limits. The toilets are often choked. The water supply is stopped midway. Nevertheless, people use this class as it is cheap. It is easier to get reservation in this compartment. Many passengers travel in the sleeper class because of this also.
There is limited interaction among higher class passengers and they spend their journey time mostly in reading books or sleeping. Now a day’s they also remain busy with smartphones and exchanging messages through WhatsApp and Facebook. But things are often different in the sleeper class where passengers easily mix with each other.
Travel by the sleeper class is often full of events. The seats are overcrowded and even if you have to move an inch you have no option but to request fellow passengers to give some space. Although all such travels are full of interesting developments, I cannot forget my journey in a reserved sleeper class compartment from Chennai to Kolkata.
As soon as the train arrived, a large number of persons gathered at the entry point. The passengers with reservation were finding it difficult to enter into the compartment. One old with a ten year old child was trying to enter into the compartment but the pick pocketers surrounded her at the entry gate itself and kept her occupied till they pickpocketed her money bag which she had tied around her shoulder
. Somehow, she could manage to reach her berth and had just down. She realised that the moneybag was missing. She was immensely disappointed at the loss of money bag and started crying. Many fellow passengers tried to console her but she was unable to overcome.
The journey from Chennai to New Delhi takes more than 40 hours. So, everybody was trying to protect his berth from unauthorised passengers. But many persons without valid ticket kept entering into the compartment almost at every station where the train halted. They wanted to share the berths of the passengers with valid tickets. Initially, they would request politely but if any passenger resisted, they would resort to physical means as well.
I myself had to accommodate two additional passengers on my berth. While one was sitting near my head another passenger took position near my feet. The persons sitting near my head was a police constable and was carrying a gun in his hand. The passenger near my feet was an army man. Both of them assured me that they would get down soon. They were quite apologetic. I quietly sat down on the sleeper berth hoping that they would get down after sometime but that was not to happen.
It was around 2AM in the night. About ten passengers of different age groups carrying lot of goods, boxes etc entered into my compartment. Most of the berths were already packed with the extra passengers. There was still some space around my berth. So, the new comers asked the lady passengers travelling along with him to sit there. There were three lady passengers of different age group trying to sit somehow in between me and the police constable. I was pushed to the corner. I could somehow save myself from falling from the berth. There were still four passengers from the group searching for space to sit. Two of them sat near the passenger sitting in the front row and the remaining two went up to the top berth. The entire space in between the berths were packed with the boxes and other items.
Somehow the train reached Nagpur station. There was a tremendous rush of passengers waiting on the platform. They rushed into the compartments. Some of them even climbed up to the roof of the train. Some persons were just hanging on the stairs. It was a very dangerous scene. The station master was unable to control the situation. The huge number of passengers thus entering into the compartments made it impossible for the driver to take the train ahead.
Some passengers sat on the boxes placed in between the berths. There was not enough air to breath. Water supply was exhausted. The toilets were completely choked. It was really a horrible situation. Passengers were unable to move even an inch. The train driver was not in a position to move the train as hundreds of people were sitting over the train roof. The police were alerted but they, too, were helpless. Repeated announcements over the loud speaker by the station control room was infructuous.
A lady was pregnant inside the sleeper compartment. She was restless. There was no way she could have been helped. But she was restive. Her pain was increasing every moment and she needed immediate medical help. There was not even an inch vacant space. Ultimately, she delivered a baby in front of everybody. Both the mother and the child were in danger.
The situation was getting out of control. They repeatedly requested the passengers to get down from the roof of the train. But nobody listened. There was a stand still. Clearing the roof of the train was a must. The passengers standing on the stairs were also asked to get out but nobody was buzzing. The presence of the huge number of armed forces failed to have any impact. The local administration was finding it difficult to use force.
The authorities were totally shaken. The matter was discussed at the highest level. At last, they ordered use of force. Immediately thereafter, the police started air firing. This followed huge chaos on the platform. People started falling upon each other. The things had gone out of hand. The railways announced cancellation of the train. By that time almost the entire train was already vacant. More than a hundred injured persons were moved to the city hospital. Luckily, the new born and the mother both were safe.
I kept waiting in the railway rest room till arrangements were made for an alternative train. It started next day evening. By that time, many passengers had already left by other means. Only a few passengers kept waiting. We were happy that the train started moving again.
After half an hour or so, some well-dressed passengers entered into the compartment. They looked like gentleman. Two of them occupied the upper berths whereas one sat on the lower berth in front of me. One passenger kept standing as there was no berth available for him. It was about 9 PM in the night. I was trying to eat. The passenger standing near me pretended to bring something from the upper berth and in that process sprinkled some powders on the food I was eating. After some time, I was feeling sleepy. I had loose motions. I tried to go to the toilet but some of them tried to follow me even there.
Next day early in the morning, one of them called me by name and drew my attention towards a key ring with some keys hanging from the front seat. I was surprised to hear my name from him They wanted to divert my attention so that they could takeaway my bag. Luckily, I could not be trapped by them. They followed me till the station arrived. Everybody was waiting for the train to stop. They requested me to get down while the train was still moving. Luckily a fellow passenger alerted me and I was saved from falling on the platform.
I reached my home two days late. I was, too, much tired. While I was trying to keep my things, I could not find money which was kept in the bag. It was taken away by the miscreants after they poisoned me .
Years have passed away since then but I am still horrified to think about the train journey in which everything went wrong!