|Abandoned Ernakulam Terminus|
Railway station, dilapidated and worn out
There were no restrooms in the station, we had to use the quarters of Sethu, the Peon who worked there. One hot Sunday, i was on a full day duty in Bikshandarkoil, from 6 am to 9 pm. As i had left the hostel at 5.30, there was no lunch for me and empty handed, i walked all the 2 km stretch singing loudly. The deserted road from the Highway to the station was devoid of any traffic, except a few cows grazing. Sethu was happy to see me, i was the only other person whom he and his family could actually socialize, after R, of course. He brought me breakfast from a small mess on the highway and i waited restlessly for the afternoon lunch. Actually there are no lunch breaks authorized when we work on shifts, it is just adjustment(!) you make with Peons. I requested Sethu to look after the station and after locking the ticket chest duly, i set off on my arduous 2 km walk in the afternoon sun. I reached the mess and after a hearty meal and a few gluttonous burps, i headed back to the station, trailing slowly.
The hot sun made some magic(?), i don't know what. I started to kick the stones on the road ( Remember, i was just nineteen then!) and started a football game with an imaginary team. Halfway along the road, i saw a tattered jeep rattling along the road. Completely absorbed in my game, i kicked the stone to the middle of the road. The jeep screeched to a halt in front of me and i looked up annoyed. Why these people are spoiling a small game i play? Can't i play li'l football with no one? The person on the front seat looked so familiar, i stood stupefied in shock! The Railway jeep was brimming to full capacity with all the Commercial Officials who had come on a surprise inspection to the station and left finding no one on duty. Mesmerized by what was happening this fateful Sunday, i stood rooted to the spot. The jeep scouted me and continued its journey on the pot holed road and i gingerly made my way to the station.
|Picture of Begunkodor station that was reopened|
after being abandoned for 42 years!
I knew i would be punished severely for not being available on duty spot at the time of inspection. I was awarded(!) with an increment cut for a year and free pass cut for another year! Seriously, how can one expect a girl of 19 years to sit all alone at an almost abandoned station for 14 hours without food and rest room? Incorrigible! And one gadget deserves a special mention here- the Railway phone. There was only one departmental phone that i could use, to talk to the Station Master of the nearest station- Srirangam. This was a vintage retro inter-station phone where there was just a handle, no dial pads. You need to wind it and unwind it to talk to the SM nearby for any help. By the time he arranges food and water for you from about 8 kms away, you may well be dead and gone!
|Interstation retro phone, vintage classic!|
A special mention about the frequent monsoon visitors here- snakes! They scrambled into the single room building, escaping the rain and you had to be careful not to step on them when there were power cuts. With a lantern and Sethu on guard, i remember how i used to dangle from the table, hanging onto dear life. Funny are the ways of life, especially those of women who are employed as booking clerks in such deserted railway stations. Now you know why i feel like hitting some one when they say- "why should you worry? You are Railway staff with carefree life and five figure salary"!
Picture courtesy- Google search