( A good part of my life have been spent on journeys. Since the 1960s, I have been travelling in connection with the union activities, first in Kerala, then in T.Nadu and Karnataka, then all over India. I have been fortunate to visit head quarters of almost all the districts in the country, except very few. In the fiercely contested Member Verifications first in the Telecom Department (All India Telecom Employees Union Class III ) and later in BSNL, it was a compulsion to reach out to the grass root level as the General Secretary of the union/s. The journeys were conducted in most difficult conditions. But the love, affection and support of the workers and leaders at the Circle and Divisional levels made the journeys almost enjoyable.
I thought that I would share some of the experiences with our comrades and friends. I would try to avoid the details, since the valuable time of the readers are precious.)
A Night Train journey from Lucknow to Agra (1966)
It was the return journey from Lucknow after attending the All India Conference of the AITEU Class III Union. The 6-7 delegates from Kerala decided to make the return journey through Agra so that the world famous Taj Mahal can be visited. No reservation in train. Heavy rush. Since winter, all were having hold-all packs, as was the system at that time with the dresses, books etc.bundled in them. To get in train with the hold-all was difficult and there was heavy rush. Windows had no bars or glasses, so that one can even jump through it. Others rushed through the door; I was asked, as the youngest, to put the luggage inside through the window and then get in through the door. By the time time I put all the luggage, the train started and I could not get in the compartment. However, I got in the next and last compartment where there was no rush. The train gained speed.
When I looked for a seat, I was dumb-founded. It was Ladies Compartment. A good number of young nurses were sitting. An elder sister came to me and asked in Malayalam whether I am from Kerala; I nodded. She told me not to worry and that she is returning from Lucknow after taking the students to appear in the Nurse’s examination and she is the Supt of the Nursing School at Agra and by morning the train will reach there. I was allowed to sit.
After a few hours, the train slowed and stopped. No station was to be seen. It was pitch dark. It seemed that there was some work going on in the tracks. I was standing at the door and looking out. The Nursing Supdt also came and stood there. All of a sudden, the train jerked and the purse in her hand fell down. I got down carefully, but since it was inside the tracks it was dangerous to bend down and pick it up. I told her that I will take it after the last compartment passes and get up with the purse, before the train gains speed. She also got down, probably afraid that I may slip away after the purse is taken from the tracks. The train started moving, I took the purse and gave it to her. But unfortunately, she was unable to climb up the steps in the moving train. Both of us were stranded there in the dark night.
We stood completely shocked and frightened. We saw a dim light and went towards it. Fortunately there was a very small Railway Station with an Asst. Station Master with a small kerosene lantern sitting in his room. We requested him to allow us to sit there. He said that the last train has gone, he is closing and going home and advised us to go outside, where there are jutkas and they will take us to Agra, by road which is only 5-6 miles from there. In the cold dark night with warm clothes and big turbans, they seemed like dacoits in Hindi cinemas. My companion was brave, she knew Hindi well, spoke with them and we got in the jutka.
The horse trotted with speed and we reached outside of Agra Railway station by about 6.00 am. I could see our comrades sitting there, probably discussing about what happened to me since they did not see me getting in to the compartment. They were happy and I was happy. I said thanks to the Nursing Superintendent and joined with my comrades. Of course, we visited Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.