April 19, 2007 at 9:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Drafted on Saturday, April 14, 2007. 9.15 a.m.

Ever since steam power was invented by James Watt, Locomotive Steam Engine pulling the coaches along, has entered our lives and lore. Like all else, the invention of the locomotive engine has sparked our imagination, and innovations have been
added to its concept, design and fabrication.

Now the steam engine is almost a thing of the past, a wisp of memory. Now there are diesel engines and electric power-driver superfast engines, lugging a long train of coaches, carrying people and transporting goods.

The train whistle is a powerful stimulant. Children all over the world play the train game and blow the whistle. The arrival and departure of a train is the beginning or the end of a long association. A train whistle heard faintly in the distance even when the engine is not yet in sight, has a very nostalgic effect on us.

How the sound of the train whistle might have sent shivers of mortal fear into the hearts of the prisoners of the Nazi regime, with their knowledge that the train will separate them from their kith and kin, and will take them to their fateful destinations like concentration camps, intensive labour camps or to the gas chamber. In peace times, the arrival and departure of a train into a station brings union and pleasure to families.

A train journey is the major form of transport all over the world. Movies have been made and novels written involving train journeys. I remember a movie in which a soldier on leave takes a long journey by train and the movie recounts his various experiences. He gets delayed because of entanglements en route, and finally when he reaches home to be greeted by his mother, a letter awaits him to return to the war front.

I also watched a Tamil movie called “Kizhakke Pogum Rayil”, viz., The Eastbound Train, which narrates the story of a young woman’s daily visit to the Railway Station expecting to see her lover-husband return. This was a very poignant story shot in rural settings.

There were a lot more movies based on the theme of trains, like The Great Train Robbery and a Hindi movie called the Burning Train. There is a real life story of adog in Japan which used to go to the Railway Station awaiting its master’s return every day, while he was dead a long while ago. I think there is also a statue to immortalise the dog. Agatha Christie has written a mystery called a murder on the Orient Express, involving an incident where two trains pass each other in opposite directions and a passenger in one train witness a fleeting glimpse of a murder being committed in the other train..

Train routes cris-cross a nation’s landscape, carrying commuters and goods from one place to another.

Life is like a train journey. Many people get into the train from one station and leave it at another. Human beings travel the train of time, grow, mature, age and die and become just memories and then fade from the memories even to be lost for ever in the past. This is deep stuff, and the passage brings happiness and sorror, adventure and relaxation, purpose and aimlessness, achievement and the lack of it, as long as it lasts. All the human ties forged in human life become null and nought after death, which is equated to people getting off trains. There I go again, philosophising and depressing people. But life is like that.

P.S: This is published very late because my net connection was down. We had a hail storm throwing down on us tennis ball sized ones pelting our doors and windows with such rattling, causing a power breakdown at midnight, over a couple of days ago. Our car windscreen was cracked. The hailstorm was followed by very heavy rains, low tension electricity, causing our old TV set to explode. There was news in the dailies that the hailstorms caused widespread crop damage in the state. The poor net provider had his reputation at stake and was frantically fixing troubles and to retrieve his damaged image.


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