[Due to certain problems I could not post for a week. Hope to restart regular postings. I thank the readers for being patient.]
Last Saturday (19th) I boarded the Chennai-Trivandrum Mail, for Cochin. This is a fast train (they call it ‘super fast’) by Indian standards. Leaving Chennai at 8p.m., it normally reaches Cochin at 6.45a.m. Each time I travel by this train, there seems to be some improvement in the quality of the rake and standards of cleanliness particularly of the toilets.
I had an early dinner and went to sleep. At about 2 a.m. I woke up, disturbed by the sound of people moving around. The train had stopped. A lady official and a policeman were next to my berth. They asked me to identify my baggage. On asking what was the problem, I was told that an important bag was misplaced and they were looking for it.
I expected the train to restart soon, but the wait continued and I could not get back to sleep. After a couple of hours I went outside and found that the train was parked on a sideline at Podannur Station near Coimbatore. Some people who were standing around in groups told me that there was a bomb scare and expert squads were checking the train.
My first thought was that the officials should have, as a precautionary step, asked the passengers to vacate the train. That of course would have created panic at a time when the passengers were deep asleep. And without any trained person around to guide them, there would have been chaos and people could have got hurt.
Whoever was in charge of the operation took a difficult decision to carry out the search with least disturbance to the travelers. When the train finally resumed the journey after a three-hour stoppage, some people were criticizing the inefficiency of the Railways. Most of them would have realized the reason for the delay only when they read about the bomb scare in the next day’s newspapers.
We certainly have to congratulate and thank the personnel of the bomb squads all over the world. These brave men and women put their lives on line almost every day to save the lives of others.
Also see: The romance of railways