WRITTEN by a journalist who is currently working for Times of India at Chennai, this travelogue takes him on an experience that is exhilarating when journeying from Kanpur to Chennai. While travelling by train and stopping at railway stations the author discovers that India can have no better symbol for national integration than the railways. “It is in trains that people from two different castes, who would otherwise not like to be seen in each other’s company, cohabit without fuss for hours or days.” In very spicy language, the author says that a millionaire who travels in a first-class air-conditioned compartment to maintain his ‘exclusivity’ is forced to share the make-shift bedroom with a much poorer countryman who happens to be travelling on office expense. “In the air-conditioned coupe, they are equals – the rich man putting up with the snoring of the poor,” he adds.
The author begins his book by describing his one-day stay at Mughal Sarai and its railway station which was the “recharge point” during those days when “trains hurtled down the length and breadth of India like a chain of marooned islands, cutting you from the rest of the world till you reached a big junction.” He says that Mughal Sarai had been a small place like a village which had now grown beyond recognition because of the railways. Here he meets a local citizen Chhote Lal who tells him that Deendayal Upadhyay had been found murdered and Gurubaksh Kapahi, an active member of the RSS – “the fountainhead of the Jan Sangh”-is taken by the police to identify the body, which was lying on the floor, “tied up like an unclaimed corpse at the door of the railway police station.” Here the author presents a very touching scene with Guruji (Guru Golwalkar), Balraj Madhok and Atal Behari Vajpayee arriving on the scene and Guruji looking at Deendayal’s body and saying, “How could this happen to you?” Guruji never kept well after that. The author quotes Mr Kapahi remembering the slogans of the time to repeat to the author, “Hamara naara Akhand Bharat”; “Kashmir hamara hai” and “Jitna Nehru garjega, utna Jana Sangh barsega”. Thousands of other Jana Sanghis raised such slogans at Ajmeri Gate in Delhi in 1953 when the party led by Syama Prasad Mookerjee agitated against the special status granted to Kashmir under the Constitution.
What is highly amusing about the author’s style of writing is that he loves to roam the towns beyond the station yard to discover the lives of people who may have grown inured to the constant whistle of passing trains.
(Tranquebar Press, 571 Poonamallee High Road, Kamaraj Bhavan, Aminikarai, Chennai-600 029.)