Bayana was a small railway station for a super-fast train to stop for more than two hours. And nobody had any information about the actual reason for such an unpredictable halt!
It was almost out of nowhere situation. And the night was fast approaching. Some passengers went to meet the guard at the end of the serpentine train, and even he had no specific clue.
“Aage KuchGadbad Hai!” (There are some troubles ahead), was his curt reply.
The train, “Gujarat Sampark Kranti” was one of the fastest trains to Ahmedabad. It was scheduled to reach Ahmedabad, by 6.45 in the next morning.
When it started from Delhi’s Nizamuddin Junction, it was dot on time. And no one informed us about any Gadbad ahead.
Mathura, the next stop, was on time too. At 4 in the afternoon. And no one had informed the passengers about any problem in the route!
The next stop was Kota, scheduled at 7.45 in the evening.
The Kaila Devi Temple wason the way when the train passed Karauliuninterrupted,and without any halt. In April every year the place attracts huge number of pilgrims. The deity is considered the Kul Devi of the Vaishya Agarwal and Gupta community in north India. I told my kids. Who were accompanying me in the journey. Their school vacation had started a week back.
Then arrived Bayana at Bharatpur district and the train stopped there without any schedule. No information from the Railways! The TTC looked helpless. “I’m in the same position as you Sir! Please ask the Guard instead.”
You had to get down from the train, and in an unknown station, out of nowhere, walk all the way to the fag end of the train to meet Mr. Guard….who had the wireless set with him.
But even he had no clear idea! He was waiting for instruction from his seniors.
After two hours, some passengers who were loitering on an almost forlorn platform came rushing in and announced: “We are going back to Agra!”
“Agra, for what!” Agra was not in the route. Also the train left Mathura, long back. No one had any intention to visit Taj Mahal at that untimely hour.
The Engine shifted to back of the train. And the train started a backward journey to Agra!
When it reached Agra, first at Idgah station, it was night already. People were feeling hungry and thirsty. Nothing was available at Bayana station.
But train had not stopped there. It went to Cantonment station, galloped there and reached Agra Fort Station ultimately.
The train stopped there and quite indefinitely. Only then we came to know that the line ahead of Bayana in Bharatpur- Kota route had been squatted by the Gujjar agitators demanding reservation, in Government jobs!
Lo. The same annual schedule of agitation in Rajasthan!
But in usual fashion, the info came from the local commuters. The Railways were in no mood or preparation to inform the passengers, what the next step should be.
The station superintendent was busy with several phones. A Walkie Talkieand a heavy duty landline phone were also in his paraphernalia. But the anxious passengers were as clueless as earlier, about the future of their journey.
“Haan, Haan, Kota Jaa Raha Hai. Ratlam BhiJayenge. Baitho, Baitho!” (Yes, the train will go to Kota and Ratlam too. Go, sit in the train!), said one of his assistants, after some passengers’ constantasking.
The scene inside the Air Conditioned coaches was a bit tolerable. But in the non AC compartments, the scene was chaotic. Many passengers were travelling with small kids. Even suckling babies. No water, no food, no milk and intolerable heat inside the coaches, added with lingering uncertainty. But the Railway administration was as callous and non-attending as ever!
All on a sudden,the train started moving. People who were on the platform, rushed back.No announcement about the train’s future itinerary.
It was moving in an unknown direction. The midnight was about two hours away.
No one actually knew where the train was moving! Some, over informed passengers, dished the info that it was heading towards Jaipur!
From there it would proceed towards Ahmedabad, via Ajmer, Abu Road, Palanpur and Mehsana.
The family which had reservation till Kota was cautioned. How could they come back, at the night! For the Ratlam guy, the nearest station would be Abu Road….perhaps 500 kilometres away!
I bought some snacks and bottled water from Agra Fort station. My kids had them and went to sleep.
I was sleepless. It was a dark night and a rudderless journey. Who knew, what lied ahead?
By midnight I could make out from the glass window, the dimly lit passing station was Dhaulpur! Thank God, we were not towards Abu Road, at least we were heading towards Madhya Pradesh. The Train was running in the Gwalior Bhopal Route. You simply can’t predict anything in life!
Jhansi was the brief stop past midnight. I stocked my ammunition for the next day from there. Snacks, bananas, biscuits and a passable stock of bottled water. The kids were fast asleep, as usual, and unaware of uncertainties ahead!
Bina was the last big stop on the main route. Then the train was routed into an unknown route.
All small, dusty mofussil kind of stations. No food, no water, nothing. The pantry car was running out of stock. Mothers, who were buying so far, diluted watery powdered milk, intended for Coffee,from the Pantry Car people, to feed their babies had no alternative left now.
Right from the morning, the train was halting all on a sudden, in the midst of nowhere, on regular intervals.No one had any idea, where it was heading, after all!
By noon. I could locate a semi-rural station on the way: Sujalpur!
Yes, looked somehow familiar. Were we heading for Ujjain!
What an unpredicted journey! From the route of Kota to Jhansi and then, of all places, Ujjain!
In another two hours, the train reached Ujjain. The city of Lord Mahakaal (Shiva).One of my favourite sleepy towns. Had some time left, I would surely had made a trip to Free Gunj and Chhatri Chowkthere!
Chhatri Chowk for traditional shopping andchoicest local snacks. Free Gunj, the heart of the city which was sleepy enough a few years ago, now had its first Pizza Joint and first ever departmental Store, ’Pakiza’!
But the time was different. The hungry mob was running towards the platform food stalls. Ujjain station joints usually had good supply of ‘Poha’ and Samosa/Kachoris. But on that hot and humid midnoon, they were almost devoid of any food or cold water! We came to know that all Maharashtra and Gujarat bound trains including Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani were passing through Ujjain. The station was not that much equipped to take such a heavy traffic and crowd.
I could hardly got hold of two packs of Ratlami Sevs and a bottle of water. Within five minutes we were on the move again. Ratlam in another two hours.
Ratlam was fifteen hours late from the normal schedule.
Dahod, Godhra, Vadodara, Nadiad…The train ultimately reached Ahmedabad, in the Midnight!
By Deep Basu
Images Provided By Author