A train to Qazigund

This itinerary proved to be the worst nightmare of sorts

ABID RASHID BABA
Srinagar, Publish Date: Nov 14 2018 9:29PM | Updated Date: Nov 14 2018 9:29PM
A train to QazigundFile Photo

Life is a journey full of crests and troughs. Endless permutations and combinations make it a joy ride. Delight and distress walk side by side. Merriment and mourning is what defines life. Last week, my friend invited me to the auspicious occasion of his marriage ceremony. It is a much-awaited D-day in our lives. Sky was sad, clouds crimson. Snowflakes came dancing from heavens. Down south, it was already raining sheets. 

Train travel is convenient and cost effective. On November 03, I boarded a train in Baramulla. This 180 km stretch is a two-hour journey. Mercury plummeted and the chill intensified as the train left for its destination. At Budgam station, it stopped for seventy minutes. Hungry and nervy boarders wanted to know the reason of this unwanted halt. We were told that there is ‘some technical fault’. As the public pressure mounted, the train honk finally cheered us all as it managed to reach the immediate next stop at Nowgam in the outskirts of Srinagar. Day melted into night. Heavy snowfall meant no vehicle will be available to ferry passengers to their respective locations. It was literally the only mode of transport.  

Sea of shivering souls were waiting, little did they know that the worst is yet to come. Waiting is the worst torture when you know that you can’t do anything about it. The thick natural white carpet added salt to the injury. At Nowgam, the operator of the train refused to move ahead. Women, children, and oldies- all huddled in jam-packed coaches were busy trying to make frantic calls to their loved ones. Cell-phone batteries exhausted and the connection was lost. It created an unmanageable mess. Calls to officials proved futile for next two hours as there was no relief in sight. Finally, signature tone started. Anti-Railway slogans reverberated at the station. Clock ticked 8:00 pm. More than one thousand travellers were onboard. 

Surprisingly, another train was arranged for commuters. But this joy was short-lived as the fault in ours stars deactivated the engine at Awantipora. It was pitch-dark. It took them another eighty minutes to arrange third train for the stranded passengers. The cries of women angered men. They dragged the driver, pelted snowballs, beat him black and blue. The travel blues grew with each passing minute. 

The train racing down the tracks on a snowy valley would have been soothing to eyes otherwise but it was woeful. The concerned officials used Public Address System to suppress the rising rage and appealed to maintain calm but nothing worked. Inconvenience faced by women can’t be weaved in words. Non-local men were pushed inside the ladies special coach. Our complaints fell on deaf ears. 

 

Dog-tired, I reached Qazigund around 10:30 pm and decided to stay at complete strangers place. I am more than grateful to them for the unparalleled hospitality. I asked for water, they offered a tumbler full of warm milk. I hit the hay thinking about the warmth and treatment I had just received. I woke up to picturesque, simple and quite location. Electricity was off and the snowy fury had turned catastrophic. We discussed the possibilities of how the loss incurred could be lessened. If J&K Bank staffers can donate INR 11 crore to the flood victims of Kerala, why are we silent at our own “calamity”? This disaster has sent a pall of gloom across South Kashmir. In the afternoon, there was light at the other end of Jawahar tunnel. Banihal was windy, slow, sunny and snowless. Students scripted their answers under candle-light and my friend was waiting for his bride under solar-lantern.  

Indian Railways is the largest rail network in Asia. But, Northern Railways has completely failed to maintain its decorum in Kashmir. On an average, thirty thousand people in Kashmir shuttle between North, South and Central Kashmir in trains but the bad odour, dirt, broken seats, windowpanes, non-local child beggars makes it a bad choice to travel. Daily earning of the Railways in Kashmir is INR three Lakh while the annual earning is nearly INR ten crore. But still they don’t pay heed to the customer complaints. Who is not aware of Kashmir’s weather vagaries but passengers continue to shiver in this bone-chilling cold as there are no heating arrangements in place. 

Japan Railways ensured to keep the train running on a specific route for just one High School girl until she graduated. The company received appreciation for its fidelity to customer service. But Kashmir is not Hokkaido. No sooner any untoward incident happens; rail service is suspended with immediate effect. Why? Why are poor passengers made to suffer? Back to Baramulla, the frenzy I witnessed during this travel is embedded in my hippocampus. I reached home with running nose, fever, cold and cough. It was the worst ever itinerary I had.

universalbaba99@gmail.com

 

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