How The Train Chugged Memories

It has been a great pleasure to see that my article on the little blue train made it to The Hindu (a leading publication in India) The article also mentioned my email address as a contact and I received many messages from readers. I cannot make a sweeping statement for humanity based on the emails sent to me, since most of them were sent to me by retired and/or educated folk, but I have to admit the comments were overwhelmingly warm, sincere and helped me reaffirm my faith in the basic goodness of mankind.

Of course, there were a few meant to make me skip a heartbeat. Some insurance salesmen sent me devastating statistics on disease and dying and how it is imperative for all to buy a policy (from him) in order to survive.  Then, there was this furniture salesmen who extorted his wares and offered me free shipping from some place in Hyderabad, India to anywhere. I wonder whether I should have ordered some furniture and had them shipped to California.

But such emails were few. Very few. Or my spam filter was very good. Many readers mentioned their own train-related experiences, and I enjoyed reading most of the emails.

Train Tracks Through a Forest

One person wrote to me about the heart warming story of his train journey in the Gir forests of Gujarat. He himself was traveling there from an urban area. Apparently, the train made many unscheduled stops along the way – there was no station, no station master and no ticketing machine, but people clambered on in these unscheduled stops. This traveller thought something fishy was going on and asked folks what the deal was. It turns out that many rural stations were closed along the way due to lack of funds, but the people in these villages still needed to use the train for various activities, so a truce with the engine drivers was reached, and the train stopped at the erstwhile stations.

“What about the tickets?” asked the fiscally conscious urban dweller, and the train clamberers shook their heads at his ignorance and said they usually purchased their tickets with the engine driver up front before climbing on.

“But what if you don’t? People can cheat this way!” said the shocked traveler.

The train clamberers were indignant. The urban dweller was told that cheating their way out of a ticket is not something that appeals to the simple and honest rural folk in that area. Every one of them held up the ticket they bought. With dignity.

Many letters came from people who had lived in the Nilgiris, or do so now,  and they wrote of their own experiences with the train. One reader even helped me track down the engine drivers who served in the approximate timeframe of my writing and narrowed it down to one or two people. They may have actually been the ones who waved to my mother.

One thing is clear, I enjoyed the ride with the little blue train all over again simply by reading the reminiscences of these readers.  I am immensely grateful for that.

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