It was early 1990s.  Started from Dada Ghosh Bhawan, union HQ,  very early morning to Delhi Railway station to catch the 06.00 hours Jaipur train. December and very cold. Had only returned late last night from another tour.  Got an auto riksha, but there was another passenger. Driver told that he is also to Railway station. After about 10 minutes driver stopped auto and got down. We also got down. Driver told that petrol is almost finished and have to be filled from next petrol pump. He asked me to get in first so that cold will be less. Other passenger sat on the side.

Driver asked me to pay Rs. 200/ as charge stating that he had to fill petrol. I took my purse and told him that the charge is too much and that I have paid only Rs.60- last night when coming from the same railway station. All of a sudden, he snatched my purse and took Rs. 200/ from it.  When I strongly protested, my co-passenger told me to wait till we reach the station, where complaint can be made. I had thought that he will support me. Immediately I understood the situation. I was trapped inside the auto. Auto turned to a side road which was narrow and hardly with any traffic. Got a bit panicky, but I did not show. Driver stopped the auto, probably to pass urine. I used the opportunity, pushed the young man next to me and was on the road. I started running to the opposite side. Fortunately they did not follow. After about 10 minutes, I reached the main road, got another auto. Told the driver what had happened and requested to rush to the station to catch the train. I told him that I have got only Rs. 10 with me. He said no problem. On the way there was a Police Constable on traffic duty. I told him the incident asking to inform 100. (Mobile telephones have not been introduced). He said that he is on traffic duty and kept silent. The auto driver took me to the Railway station. The train was almost to start. He did not accept any money from me. I boarded the moving train and left for Jaipur.

Once got in to a wrong  flight. Had gone to attend TEAN Conference in Nepal. While returning I was late to reach Kathmandu airport from the local town where the conference was held. Somehow managed to get boarding pass and ran to the boarding place where the airhostess was waiting for me. After checking, I boarded the flight to Delhi. No vacant seat in economy class. Put me in a seat in executive class without extra charges. After some time, a Flight Attendant came and asked whether V.A.N.Namboodiri is there. When I stood up, he told me that this is not my flight and that I have to board another flight! I got down, boarded the nearby plane and rested peacefully watching the Himalayan ranges. On enquiry found out that there were two flights to Delhi almost at the same time due to heavy rush of passengers.

While boarding a train in midnight when returning from Lucknow to Delhi, my mobile phone was stolen. Coms. K.R.Yadav, R.K.Mishra and other comrades who accompanied me to station had already left. When I complained to the police constable nearby, he advised me to go to the first platform and complain to the police station there. There was no time, I got in and the train started. I was sleeping when a police constable woke me up and asked to follow him to the ‘Police Station’, in next compartment. Three police constables, including one Head Constable, were there, and it was the ‘Police Station’ in the train. They asked me how and when the mobile phone was lost and I told the details. They wanted me to give it in writing. I came back to my seat, took a paper, wrote the complaint and handed over to the police. They wanted it to be written in Hindi instead of in English. Again, came back, written in Hindi and handed over. They said that they will enquire and inform, if found out. A copy of the FIR was given to me. All these took a few hours and I was awake till reached Delhi. After reaching Delhi, purchased another mobile phone, went to BSNL office, showed the FIR and got a new sim card free. I was advised that it is always necessary to note down the EMI of the mobile instrument so that it also can be blocked so that it could not be used by anybody.

Went to Kashmir many times for attending Conferences and visited the beautiful places including Dal Lake, Gulmarg, Mughal Gardens and many other places of interest. But always stayed at the residence of Com. Nizar Ahmed, Circle Secretary. Though reservation will be made at Inspection Quarters, stay at home due to security concerns. Dinner also there. Com.A.R.Tak, former Circle Secretary, also used to stay there. Though security and Military are deployed at Telephone Exchange, IQ etc. it is really not safe. Anything can happen any time. Home was always safe.

From telephone exchange to Srinagar Airport. There was a bomb blast nearby and CRPF was thoroughly checking all vehicles on the route to airport. About 20 vehicles in front of my taxi and no way that I will reach airport in time. Got down along with Com. A.R.Tak and walked till the police check up and crossed it. Requested driver of the car which was moving after check up to give a lift to the airport. He agreed, I got in and reached airport. Since my ticket was not confirmed, went to the counter where about a dozen people were in queue. Told that my flight was due, was allowed to go to counter and got the ticket confirmed. Just before reaching the entry gate, the young man who gave me the lift, requested me to take one of his suitcase, since he had more luggage than allowed for a passenger. I was worried. Without knowing what is in the suitcase, how can I carry it? I agreed since he helped me earlier. But when reached the entry gate, the security objected stating that it is not my luggage. He had seen the luggage being handed over to me. I gave the bag to its owner with relief and entered airport. When met him in the flight,  asked what happened. He told that he had to pay extra charges for the excess weight. I was sorry that I doubted him.

Andaman & Nicobar Islands are endowed with natural beauty, with the blue sea all around. Many small islands.  Visited four times in connection with conference, tours etc. Once, went along with Pankajam. A  place with people living in extra ordinary harmony and secular concept. People belonging to almost all states, mainly from Bengal and T.Nadu. Extradited from India by British rulers for participation in freedom struggle.

The Cellular Jail, where the freedom fighters were kept.  You can even now see the gallows in which they were hanged. Names of freedom fighters put in marble, who became martyrs. Memorials to Martyrs. Ross Island, the previous capital, which is gradually sinking in to sea. Visited many of the small islands.

Coms. S.P.Kalairajan, Circle Secretary, and Ratnambal, Asst. Circle Secretary, made all arrangements for convenient stay and tours. Though of Tamil  origin, both know Malayalam. Most people of A & N islands know many Indian languages. Ratnambal working in another small island. Half hour journey through sea by boat. At the time of Sunami, the ground floor of the exchange completely went down and was fully covered by earth. Escaped since it was a Sunday and she did not go to office.

There are many beautiful places to visit in all parts of the country. Heritage buildings, historical places, rivers, hills, temples, mosques, gurudwaras, churches etc. etc. India, a vast country with different climates, languages and what not. Unity in diversity. Within the 25 years of stay in Delhi, visited almost all districts in the country. The love and affection shown by the leaders and workers in all these places is a cherished memory. They were my inspiration and strength to face all adversities.  

Hundreds and hundreds of difficult, interesting and inspiring journeys. A big volume can be written, when time allows. Not going into more experiences here.

Air travel is different from train journey in many ways. Sometimes, you may not even speak a single word with your next seat passenger. Train journey is different. Passengers interact with each other, talk about a lot of issues, get acquainted and sometimes become lifelong friends.

Situation changed after introduction of A.C.Coaches and high speed trains. Whether night or day, passengers like to sleep or rest in the pleasant coolness. Or completely engaged with mobile and the various services it can provide.  One cannot see outside clearly due to the stained glasses. Train journeys have changed a lot. It does not have the closeness and friendly atmosphere that existed earlier. I may be wrong also. (To be continued).