A hectic Journey – Sudip Sen Gupta, West Bengal

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I would like to share one of my memorable experience with all of you. This was back when I had just completed my schooling days. Our family was not financially strong and hence I was looking for ways to contribute of our family expenses. I decided to go for technical studies for further improvement of financial structure. However, I was not brilliant academically and had to struggle a bit for getting admission opportunities. But I did secure one and this is where the thrilling adventurous experience comes in.

The institute where I got admission asked me to report to them within three days. I had to report sharply by 12:30 p.m. on third day or else my candidature would be cancelled. The journey was from Pawanpur to sighajuli. Back in those days there were no flights, no express or superfast trains or bus. If a long distance journey was needed then early planning and commitment had to be made to that. There was no scope for “last minute adjustment”. I would have to broad a train from Pawanpur and travel to lalung junction.

From there I had to change train and would have reached my destination. However, when I reached lalung junction, I came to know that due to technical and maintenance difficulties all trains to Sighajuli would be delay till night.

I calculated that if I would board the night train, I would reach to my destination by 10:00-10:15 am in advance. That is, if everything go normal and no further delay occurs. But that was dangerously cutting close to my interview timing which was 12:30 p.m. Since this was the last opportunity that I absolutely could not afford to lose, I decided to board a goods train that was leaving for some another destination but the path coincided with where I wanted to go.

I requested the guard to accommodate me on the guard van after telling him everything about my situation. He was sceptical at first, but after consideration he agreed to allow me to seat only outside of the guard van. This is because some important materials were being transported by the train as well as in guard van. Even police protection was given to the guard. They all were sitting inside the guard cabin and did not allow any unauthorized person inside the cabin. But this did not bother me. I actually felt quite fortunate that I would be able to reach my destination with time to spare. I made myself comfortable outside the cabin as the train started moving as per schedule. Sometime it was moving fast, sometime very slow as per go ahead direction.

Winter was just around the corner & wearing a pullover I was enjoying the picturesque beauty of dense forest, waterfalls & so many numbers tunnels etc. since perfect sunshine were all around. Sometimes the train would enter long tunnels and since in those days, steam engines were mainly used, all the smoke would completely engulf me making it very hard to breathe. But I completely ignored all of these and was mainly focusing on my presentation and interview.

When the dusk arrived accompanied with chilling winds, the guard suddenly closed the cabin doors by ignoring me to save themselves from the chill winds. I wondered about what could be inside that, they didn’t even for once asked me to come inside and just left me there, outside the guard cabin. I was able to hear different types of call of wild animals. I was not worried about the cold as I had already wrapped myself with a thick blanket that I had and was comfortable in it. I was however hungry, since it was a goods train & there was no pantry service available on way. It did not even stopped at any stations from where I would buy foods. I had some biscuits n& cold water with which I would complete my dinner with water.

As I mentioned that winter was already around, the scenery changed as dark was approaching. It went from a scenic beauty to a pitch black night in a matter of seconds. It was so dark that I could hardly see 2ft. in front of me. It was now that I began to question my decision about this ride. The train was passing through a dense jungle and I could hear the constant howling and other terrifying noises made by the various occupants of the jungle. A smell of rotten flesh were emanating surroundings.

Then all of a sudden the train slowed down. I was more frightened on seeing a group of tribe persons slowly riding on the train. All of them were dress up with sharp machetes on their hands & guns on their shoulders with torches and batons. They were every much surprised to see me sitting outside. One of them asked me why I was sitting outside alone. I told them about my situation. They seemed felt pity on me.

One of them provided me ripe bananas to eat & assured me not to be afraid about them. They were discussing something on tribal languages. I was also taking a nap due to tiredness.

I was so hungry that I started to eat those bananas. They also enquired who were inside the guard cabin. After sometime again the train started to slow down.

Persons were getting down hurriedly one by one perhaps their destination came up nearby. One of them warned me that the dense jungle was prone of wild bears, boars, leopards, wolves & wild dogs. So I must remain alert all the time & should not try to get down. It may have been the cold but every now and then I was getting a chill down on my spine as train was slowing down and was by now cursing my fate for making such a bad call.

After spending some time which seemed like eternity to me, I was   able to hear some Bengali folk songs coming from remote village of a hill top. I was mesmerized with the tune that calmed me down and soothing my nerves. I slowly felt asleep due to fatigue & tiredness.

At around 3 o clock the guard alerted me to get up as my destined

Railway Station is arriving. I was so delighted & thanked God about his immense blessing showered to me. It was early morning & I reached to my destination well in advance

I was able to attend my admission test successfully in time & appeared. After acquiring my technical qualification, I got a job with sizable salary to support my parents.

Till date I remember the guidance & care took by Almighty, who saved me from all tough situations & tend me to achieve my goal.

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