A train journey and two names to remember - The Hindu

Simply good by Leena Sarma

Of two co-travellers who surprised the writer with their graciousness, 24 years ago

It was the summer of 1990. As Indian Railway (Traffic) Service probationers, my friend and I travelled by train from Lucknow to Delhi. Two MPs were also travelling in the same bogie. That was fine, but the behaviour of some 12 people who were travelling with them without reservation was terrifying. They forced us to vacate our reserved berths and sit on the luggage, and passed obscene and abusive comments. We cowered in fright and squirmed with rage. It was a harrowing night in the company of an unruly battalion; we were on edge, on the thin line between honour and dishonour. All other passengers seemed to have vanished, along with the Travelling Ticket Examiner.

We reached Delhi the next morning without being physically harmed by the goons, though we were emotionally wrecked. My friend was so traumatised she decided to skip the next phase of training in Ahmedabad and stayed back in Delhi. I decided to carry on since another batchmate was joining me. (She is Utpalparna Hazarika, now Executive Director, Railway Board.) We boarded an overnight train to Gujarat’s capital, this time without reservations as there wasn’t enough time to arrange for them. We had been wait-listed.

We met the TTE of the first class bogie, and told him how we had to get to Ahmedabad. The train was heavily booked, but he politely led us to a coupe to sit as he tried to help us. I looked at the two potential co-travellers, two politicians, as could be discerned from their white khadi attire, and panicked. “They’re decent people, regular travellers on this route, nothing to worry,” the TTE assured us. One of them was in his mid-forties with a normal, affectionate face, and the other in his late-thirties with a warm but somewhat impervious expression. They readily made space for us by almost squeezing themselves to one corner.

They introduced themselves: two BJP leaders from Gujarat. The names were told but quickly forgotten as names of co-passengers were inconsequential at that moment. We also introduced ourselves, two Railway service probationers from Assam. The conversation turned to different topics, particularly in the areas of History and the Polity. My friend, a post-graduate in History from Delhi University and very intelligent, took part. I too chipped in. The discussion veered around to the formation of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League.

The senior one was an enthusiastic participant. The younger one mostly remained quiet, but his body language conveyed his total mental involvement in what was being discussed, though he hardly contributed. Then I mentioned Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s death, why it was still considered a mystery by many. He suddenly asked: “How do you know about Syama Prasad Mookerjee?” I had to tell him that when my father was a post-graduate student in Calcutta University, as its Vice-Chancellor he had arranged a scholarship for the young man from Assam. My father often reminisced about that and regretted his untimely death [in June 1953 at the age of 51].

The younger man then almost looked away and spoke in a hushed tone almost to himself: “It’s good they know so many things ...”

Suddenly the senior man proposed: “Why don’t you join our party in Gujarat?” We both laughed it off, saying we were not from Gujarat. The younger man then forcefully interjected: “So what? We don’t have any problem on that. We welcome talent in our State.” I could see a sudden spark in his calm demeanour.

The food arrived, four vegetarian thalis. We ate in silence. When the pantry-car manager came to take the payment, the younger man paid for all of us. I muttered a feeble ‘thank you’, but he almost dismissed that as something utterly trivial. I observed at that moment that he had a different kind of glow in his eyes, which one could hardly miss. He rarely spoke, mostly listened.

The TTE then came and informed us the train was packed and he couldn’t arrange berths for us. Both men immediately stood up and said: “It’s okay, we’ll manage.” They swiftly spread a cloth on the floor and went to sleep, while we occupied the berths.

What a contrast! The previous night we had felt very insecure travelling with a bunch of politicians, and here we were travelling with two politicians in a coupe, with no fear.

The next morning, when the train neared Ahmedabad, both of them asked us about our lodging arrangements in the city. The senior one told us that in case of any problem, the doors of his house were open for us. There was some kind of genuine concern in the voice or the facial contours of the otherwise apparently inscrutable younger one, and he told us: “I’m like a nomad, I don’t have a proper home to invite you but you can accept his offer of safe shelter in this new place.”

We thanked them for that invitation and assured them that accommodation was not going to be a problem for us.

Before the train came to a stop, I pulled out my diary and asked them for their names again. I didn’t want to forget the names of two large-hearted fellow passengers who almost forced me to revise my opinion about politicians in general. I scribbled down the names quickly as the train was about to stop: Shankersinh Vaghela and Narendra Modi.

I wrote on this episode in an Assamese newspaper in 1995. It was a tribute to two unknown politicians from Gujarat for giving up their comfort ungrudgingly for the sake of two bens from Assam. When I wrote that, I didn’t have the faintest idea that these two people were going to become so prominent, or that I would hear more about them later. When Mr. Vaghela became Chief Minister of Gujarat in 1996, I was glad. When Mr. Modi took office as Chief Minister in 2001, I felt elated. (A few months later, another Assamese daily reproduced my 1995 piece.) And now, he is the Prime Minister of India.

Every time I see him on TV, I remember that warm meal, that gentle courtesy, caring and sense of security that we got that night far from home in a train, and bow my head.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-train-journey-and-two-names-to-remember/article6070562.ece more  

01OPEN_PAGE_MODI___1926913f___20140603072912___.jpg
View all 26 comments Below 26 comments
Sheetal - It is wonderful to read this experience. I also dream to have similar experience in my life time at least once after reading your story more  
Thanks Sheetal Jain for posting this article. more  
Very nice to read the experience. It may kindly be noted that the candle whether it is small in size or big will always shed the same light. very touching but true story. Great leaders are the same by virtue of their goodness in quality either when they are young or at their old age. They are ever the same 'GANGA'. more  
What a touching story! Thanks for sharing.
But it is unfortunate that Mr.Shankersinh Vaghela joined the corrupt Congress party later. more  
You are really fortunate to travel with a future PM with good qualities, not dream of by the nation. My full hearted wishes to Modiji. Everyone from lowest strata of society to to leaders of world expects the best from him.
Hard work! Honesty! Clear Vision! Decision Making!
Do you all remember Dr. Abdul Kalam's word - India will be superpower by 2020. I am confident that it will happen. His dream will come true. He might have dream of " one strong person from India will lead the nation to achieve the same.
Let us all cooperate to achieve Dr. Kalam's dream. JAI HIND more  
Post a Comment

Related Posts

    • ARE EVERYONE TIRED OF LOCKDOWN ?

      Now, it appears that both the governments and the public are tired of lockdown. It appears that people have reconciled themselves to live with COVID 19, just as they have been living wi...

      By N.S. Venkataraman
      /
    • DISRESPECT TO CORONA INFECTED DECEASED PERSONS

      It is highly depressing to read news about the local people’s objection to bury / cremate the corona infected deceased persons in their locality. This is happening all over India and par...

      By N.S. Venkataraman
      /
    • COVID 19 - LIFTING LOCKDOWN IN INDIA– A CALCULATED RISK THAT HAS TO BE TAKEN

      A team of management professional, technologists , trader with long experience in their respective field have put their heads together and arrived at suggestions for lifting the lockdown in the f...

      By N.S. Venkataraman
      /
    • MR. MODI SHOULD BAN POLYGAMY TO PROTECT WOMEN’S DIGNITY AND CURB POPULATION GROWTH

      As we celebrate International women’s Day, it is surprising that no one seem to be talking about the practice of polygamy where one man marries several women. This is one of the most uncivil...

      By N.S. Venkataraman
      /
    • DELHI POLICE – SINNED OR SINNED AGAINST ?

      Almost all section of Indian media and most of the critics have blamed the Delhi police for the riots for two days ,when many innocent lives were lost and many were injured and large scale propert...

      By N.S. Venkataraman
      /
    • Someone get this chimpanzee booked

      He is openly challenging Delhi Police and Govt of India. "Trump के जाने तक तो हम शांति से जा रहे। लेकिन उसके बाद हम आपकी भी नही सुनेगे. सड़कें खाली करवाइए तब तक।" "Till Trump...

      By Rajesh Suri
      /
    • Hiow to deal with motivated agitators and terrorists ?

      For the last several days, some members of the Islamic group have been agitating against CAA. Now they are blocking roads in Delhi, Chennai and other places, though the government has assured that ...

      By N.S. Venkataraman
      /
    • Lessons for bjp

      3 lessons for BJP after Delhi: 1) Ideological issues must be supplemented by a solid governance agenda 2) There has to be a vibrant local unit with mohalla presence, & not mer...

      By Rajesh Suri
      /
    • Divisive campaigns have no place in aspirationals

      It was बिजली, पानी, शिक्षा, सुरक्षा chunav till a few weeks ago & then Shaheenbagh became the centrepiece of BJP’s campaign.For weeks women of shaheenbagh were demonised.If exit poll num...

      By Sonal Das
      /
    • Rahul Gandhi is an idiot

      Today Rahul Gandhi said; Ye jo Narendra Modi bhashan de raha hai, 6 mahine baad ye ghar se bahar nahi nikal payega. Hindustan ke yuva isko aisa danda marenge, isko samjha denge ki Hindustan k...

      By Shikha Jain
      /
    • Shameful news 18 India

      You ask a CM in power to prove that he cares about Hanuman and ask him to sing hanuman chalisa live. Well handled Kejriwal ji. Fan of u again in last 2 years. Worth watching everyone

      By Rajesh Suri
      /
Share
Enter your email & mobile number and we will send you the instructions

Note - The email can sometime gets delivered to the spam folder, so the instruction will be send to your mobile as well

Please select a Circle that you want people to invite to.
Invite to
(Maximum 500 email ids allowed.)