- JOURNEYS, EXPERIENCES (2)
A train journey in RMS compartment. From Patna, capital of Bihar, with Circle President of BSNLEU. Trains blocked and unduly delayed for many hours due to rail accident. Heavy rush in all compartments. Unable to get in. Went to RMS compartment and got in with permission of our comrades. Two berths in the compartment were given to us. Train started at 19.00 hours or so after much delay. Just before starting of the train, a policeman came and demanded the staff that two berths be given to a police officer and family. No berth, told the staff. Policeman pointed at us and said that we are not staff. Train moved on. In the next station, the policeman came with TTE and RPF. We did not want any trouble to the RMS staff and went out through the back door and got in another compartment. We understood later that the police officer had played the game to travel with family, without purchasing tickets.
1970s. Travelling to Madras from Kozhikode by First Class to attend JCM meeting. First class allowed to attend JCM meetings. A.C.coach not introduced. Five persons in the four berth coupe. I did not have reservation. When time came to sleep, I took a bed sheet, spread it on the floor and was going to lie down. Two of the passengers were British – one man and one woman – may be husband and wife, maybe not. They told me that they will sleep in one berth and gave me one berth. Myself surprised and very happy. Expressed thanks to them.
When returning from Madras next day it seemed that I am alone in the First Class four berth coupe. In the last moment lot of people with bags, suit cases etc. entered, placed them and went away except one exceptionally charming youngster. I recognized Prem Nazir, the famous cinema actor, as my co-passenger. Spoke to him and got acquainted. There were rumours at that time that he was going to enter politics as in the case of Tamil actors. I enquired to him. He said no proposal to enter politics. He was reading the many magazines he had brought with him till very late in the night. There were lots of people to receive him at Kozhikode Railway station. Left after bidding him farewell. Very happy for the chance to meet the famous actor.
Another time travelling to Kozhikode from Delhi. No reservation, in waiting list. However, got in the three tier sleeper compartment. When all started to sleep, I spread bed sheet to lie down on the floor. At that time, the 4 – 5 year old girl who was in the middle berth told her mother that she will sleep with her and that her berth be given to me. Got the berth and slept comfortably. Got acquainted with the family, Mr. Cyril Castra, Mrs. Flora Castra and Fiona and became friends. Two years back attended Fiona’s marriage at Mangaluru. Last year Mr and Mrs. Castra visited us at Kozhikode. A life-long family friendship.
While functioning as Circle Secretary of the union in the last few years of 1970s, used to come almost every week, or second week to Kozhikode to be with family. Since Circle Office will not be functioning on Saturday and Sunday, the journey will be usually in the night train on Friday. MLAs, going to their constituencies after the assembly session will be there. They also used to travel by three tier sleeper. Once I got the berth near where Comrades E.K.Nayanar (later Chief Minister of Kerala) and other MLAs were there. Socialist leaders, Comrades Arangil Sreedharan (former M.P.) and P.I.Ittoop were there. Politics, jokes – everything in discussion. Nayanar’s berth was middle one. When going to sleep, Com.M.V.Raghavan M.L.A., gave warning that Com.Nayanar should not be allowed to sleep in the middle berth. Why? He told that on earlier occasion when going to Calcutta, Nayanar was sleeping in middle berth. In the midnight there was a heavy ‘thud’ sound and when all woke up saw Com. Nayanar on the floor having fallen from the berth. Everybody including Nayanar laughed. May be true, maybe not. However, Nayanar slept on the lower berth that night.
Membership verification tour in Bihar. Com.B.P.Singh, Circle secretary, and a few other comrades. After attending meetings in 2-3 places, travelling in train to Patna, where the meeting was fixed at 17.00 hours. Train late and expected only to reach one hour late. Continuous calls from comrades in Patna, enquiring when we will reach. We were in tension. Many workers may leave in case the meeting starts late. Being winter season, it was dark by 1700 hours itself. Fortunately the train slowed down before reaching Patna Station due to not getting signal. The meeting place was nearby and all started getting down. I was last and by the time I was at the door, the train has started moving. I jumped down with bag etc. though I could not clearly see outside. It was in fresh cowdung that I fell. Pants, Shirts, bag – all covered by cow dung. After cleaning the shirt etc. attended and addressed the meeting. Had I fell down backwards towards the train? But at that time, attending the meeting was the only thing in mind.
At Delhi Airport, on way to attend Central Working Committee Meeting, at Pune. Com.Chittabrata Majumdar, General Secretary, CITU, who was to inaugurate the meeting with me. When waiting for arrival of the flight after check-in, all of a sudden he became ill. Even difficult to get up and walk. Airport staff brought a wheel chair and along with him boarded the flight through the lift system. He was carried in the wheel chair and a seat arranged in the first row itself. I requested the young airhostess to adjust an adjacent seat to me so as to be of assistance to him. But she was in a hurry and moved away. Sometime after the flight started, I went to the airhostess and asked why she did not adjust one seat to me. May be I was a little sharp. What happened next was unexpected. She started crying and told me that she did not hear. ‘This is my first flight. Kindly don’t complain’, she added. I was worried, apologized and went to my seat.
In the 1960s, there was no direct train to Delhi from Kerala. One has to travel and catch the train, mostly GT Express, from there. Reservation can be done only from Madras by standing in queue before the booking counter. There will be long queues and once while in Bombay, I have seen people in queue for two or three days waiting to book the ticket. Same thing at Madras also. Hence we used to rush in to the ordinary compartment as soon as it arrives in the station. Sometimes you will not get even a seat to sit till you reach Delhi. Once, unable to stand continuously, got down at Jhansi along with Com.K.Bhaskaran Nair, union leader, who was with me. Put luggage in cloakroom, bathed, visited Jhansi Fort and continued journey to Delhi. On ordinary ticket, one can travel in any train without reservation. (to be continued).
Once got in to a wrong flight. Had gone to attend TEAN Conference in Nepal. I was late to reach the Kathmandu airport from Sitapur where the conference was held. Somehow managed to get boarding pass, ran to the embarkment breaking the queue, and got to the boarding place where the airhostess was waiting for me. After checking, I boarded the flight to Delhi. No seat for me in the economy class. Got an executive seat without extra charges. After some time a steward came and asked