1966 March 12. Travelling to Lucknow through Madras – Jhansi to participate in the All India Conference of All India Conference of E.III Union (NFPTE) at Lucknow along with Com.K.Bhaskaran Nair, leader of NFPTE at Calicut. Since no direct train from Kerala, we went to Madras first. Only one train from Madras to Delhi route – Grand Trunk Express. No reservation since it will take at least one day in queue to reach counter. Even then no chance. As usual, we will travel in ordinary compartment. We managed to get in the compartment with our hold-all in the heavy rush, but failed to get seats. Started travelling by standing.
At Vijayawada, got down to platform, took meals from Railway Canteen and returned, but again no seats. In the night also we had to continue standing even without moving space. No sleep. Exhausted completely. Reached Jhansi in early morning of 15th at about 04.00 hours. We got down there with the intention to visit Jhansi Fort, take a bath and then proceed by next available train to Lucknow. Since we had unreserved ticket, can travel by any train.
It was winter and very cold. We took bathing towels, soap etc, put luggage in the locker room, had very sweet hot tea ( almost complete milk ) and hired a tonga to go to the Jhansi Fort. By about half an hour he stopped and told that we have reached the Fort. Got down and carefully looked the surroundings. It was still dark, but we could see some old buildings nearby in the dim light. We entered the premises, went inside the building. Rooms were large, nobody was there, but very foul smell, beyond toleration. Dirty clothes bundled here and there. Total atmosphere made us sick, we rushed outside. By the time, sun has risen and there was light. We were sure that this was not the Jhansi Fort, but some other old dilapidated fort or big house.
We started walking back to the road. The compound was dirty, muddy rain water was every where. Near the dilapidated gate to the road, there were about thirty men and women with disfigured bodies in rags watching us with anger and distrust. They might have thought that we are thieves and had come to steal their possessions. We understood to our dismay that this was a lepers’ colony and that we are trapped. To reach the road we have to pass through the gate where they stood. If we are caught and kept there? A life with lepers?
Bhaskaran Nair was a man of action, quick to find out answers in any tricky situation. He told that we will calmly walk up to the gate with out showing any fear and once near, run with all our might to the road. That exactly is what we did. When we started running they were startled and we could pass them without difficulty. Anyway, they could not have outrun us. The nightmare was over.
We got another tonga and proceeded to the real Jhansi Fort. We reached there shortly. A major portion was occupied by military, but we could visit other portions of the fort. We found out a small temple and a tank deep down inside the fort. We got down in the hope of taking a bath, since we were feeling very dirty not only because of the coal dust of the train, but also of visiting the lepers’ colony. There was a poojari in the temple. He told that only the royal family can take bath in the tank. We told him that we have come far from Kerala to visit the temple and that we can have darshan only after taking bath and offered him dakshina. He was happy, allowed us to bath and then we had darshan. We also were happy.
We returned to the station, had breakfast and started to Lucknow by the next train.