Kipling’s Trains

Outside, the rain is falling in sheets. Inside, the room is sparse and dimly lit. Enough to cast deep shadows on my wrinkled face. A gaggle of children is gathered in a semi circle.

I am telling them stories of a beautiful railway that existed decades ago.

Of a railway that ran through the jungles that Kipling made famous.

Of a railway that celebrated its reach despite its dimunitive size.

Of a railway that even in its last days, the light shone upon beautifully.

A railway that had the likes of the hardworking and gentle Mr. Khandekar check tickets.

A railway that let its passengers finish their tea in peace before getting going again.

A railway that was obsessed with its distance from Calcutta.

A railway that gave Ms. Rawat her job of handing over signal tokens and making possible for her daughter to attend college.

A railway that encouraged — no matter how late you arrived at the station to buy a ticket.

A railway that was built for lazy, late afternoon conversations.

A railway that had within its station compound a library with a steam locomotive at its gate.

A railway that had broad stations that doubled up as the evening market.

A railway peaceful enough for romance to bloom.

A railway that was source of water supply for the village and allowed cows to feed on the green grass that were its platforms.

A railway that gave its office goers a chance to unwind before starting their dreary days.

A railway that once welcomed me with a dining car and served a wonderful dinner.

A railway that didn’t evict cobblers from its premises.

A railway that was the kids’ school commute option every day.

A railway that preserved its schools.

A railway that made possible for Mr. Deo to collect his pensions every month.

A railway that kept reminding everyone that there were too many people for it to carry.

A railway that stopped at places like Jhilimili and allowed one to walk down its platform lined with beautiful old teak and peepul trees.

A railway that flew in the face of normalcy and plotted to have its busiest hour in the afternoon.

A railway that constantly reminded me that speed is no guarantee of reaching somewhere quicker.