Friday 27 May 2011

Inspection Comedies- 2

Abandoned Ernakulam Terminus
Railway station, dilapidated and worn out
For those who have already read my Inspection Comedies- 1, this topic is no surprise. Here comes the Comedy Number 2. There was a quaint railway station called Bikshandarkoil next to Uttamarkoil on Trichy- Villupuram Section in Southern Railways. Being posted in Trichy division, i had the luck(?) of working in some myriad places and BXS- Bikshandarkoil is one among the worst! The station by itself was well over 2 kms from the Trichy Chennai Highway, the only road link to the village. Commuting by bus, one had to get down at Koothur and walk the entire distance, either in stoic silence or humming the latest love song. I was a poor station clerk, sent to duty on saturdays and sundays to relieve the poorer station clerk for his rest day. R lived in the quarters nearby and would rush in a jiffy to catch the bus to Madurai, his hometown. Oh, i forgot to mention, the nearest quarters is about 300 metres away from the station! The station by itself must have been built in 1950s and with little or no maintenance, it was in shambles then.

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


  1. Poor Girl! I believe these stations are being run as a punishment job locations, which your Babu's use as a weapon to threaten his subordinates!

    By the way, what is the turnover from such stations?

  2. That was horrible.. Our government was never a good employer.

  3. Really funny, but I also feel bad that you had go through all this. Hope you no longer have to work with the Railways. You could definitely use your talents elsewhere.
    I read your car driving agony too, it was very similar to my own experience.
    My husband too wonders why I should accelerate when asked to apply the brakes, or why do i turn left when asked to turn right and so on, till after several attempts I finally gave up driving for good.
    Now my husband is my personal driver, what more can one ask?

  4. :D Hilarious! The way you have described it! Your article sounds so much fun as opposed to the situations that you had to face...complete contrasts! You are too good, CN! :)))

  5. sure have a sense of humour! This railway station is similar to what is in Nigeria..obsolete!

  6. Dear Louis, thanks for the visit and comment. Yes, these locations sound like punishment stations but they are not! The turnover is really funny, you will not believe, its about 300 to 500 INR per day!

  7. Dear Harish...yes, private firms are far better when it comes to working conditions. But as they say, Govt concerns like Railway are service oriented rather than profit centered.So the hitches are inevitable:)

  8. Dear Rama, I am sorry to disappoint you here- i am still very much with the Railways. I have learnt to live with the Devil Incarnate Himself!As for the car agony, so funny, feeling sad for your husband;)

  9. Dear Arti. Thanks for the comment. Yes, it was so bad then but when the initial wound heals, it is really funny to reminisce the past and have a hearty laugh!

  10. Dear Ibhade! So, Stations in Nigeria too are the same, huh? So bad...grrrr!

  11. 1.Fun
    2.Why ar these stations being run>?? do these stations draw commuters??
    3. No Work area amenities... DREU put its hand in to?
    4. inspection committee-Thats MURPHY's LAW.(at a given instant wat ever can go wrong will...)

  12. Dear Niv,
    Your Inspection comedies were very interesting readin. I;ve heard TPJ divn is notorious for such inspections and swift punishments. Your other blogs too are very good. Keep writing. All the Best.

  13. Nivedita , I am railway kid in the sense that I have grown up with the Indian railways. I alwasy empathise with the people who work on this deserted stations. I think you were better off than the Statiion Master at " Castle Rock" in the Hubli Division of SC Railway. According to him all he had were spook trains on a deserted railway siding and some leopards who used to stray in from the forests in the western ghats around!! Seriously, why put people through all this I wonder!

  14. Dear Anonymous...thanks for the visit and comment. I love that Murphy Law thingy! As for DREU, i am dedicating an entire post to Unions in Railways soon, you'll know about collective theft:P

  15. Dear Jiji...thanks for your visit and first comment on my blog! Welcome man, expecting more feedback from you. And yes, what you heard about TPJ division on surprise inspections and swift punishments is indeed right!

  16. Dear Meera. Thanks for the visit and comment. Feeling really sorry for Castle Rock SM. Leopards? Snakes sound better. Next time, they will be given a hug and a kiss:P


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