Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Dream Still Born

                       "I'm a steam train,big and tough,
                        Riding steel rails, hear me chuff;
                        Running on my steel railroad track,
                        Smoke is steaming from my stack."

Hitch your vision to the stars. Did someone famous say that? I guess so. The fact is I never did really hitch my vision to anything stellar .And when I look back it was more of a variant of   drift wood  kind and  that I was fortunate at times to  ebb with the tide and at  other times get smothered by chance. So there was no real manual design behind what I’m today. Is that not the sign of lackadaisical character?

Strong are the ones who do not let lives be designed and dictated by vicissitudes and the roller-coaster of existential living. They design and chart their course like voyagers who deftly chart the navigation on the vast and seemingly endless seas. And their persistence and perseverance enables them to manoeuvre the vagaries of the mysterious waters and finally say aloud, “Land ahoy”.

As a child I was fascinated by the train that was pulled by the steam locomotive engine. The rail road passed through my neighbour hood and I never failed an opportunity and let go a chance to stand on the over bridge, or the street adjacent to the rail road and watch with enchanted fascination locomotive pull the cars, huffing, puffing and with the occasional shrill whistle that sent  jet of steam out through the exhaust vents. The swish, whistling and hissing the steam engine creates; its huge wheels that are connected by shafts that rotate in synchronous harmony, were wonderful sights and to behold in awe. The manual hand signal on the side of the rail track gave a good indication of when the train would pass. And I would stay put for minutes for the signal to assert and then get overwhelmed with excitement when the engine appears in the distance like a black spot .Then to gradually appear larger in size and vision. When it entered the under the bridge on which I stood transfixed, the brief couple of seconds the huffing becomes distant then to be heard on the other side of the bridge to soon speed off to vanish with the cars in tow beyond the bend on the rail road! The smell of burning coal, though tantalising would also send tiny specks and dust of residual coal into the nostrils and eyes. A less intense consequence when compared to the awe the whole picture gave me!

I decided when I become man I must be a train driver. The huffing-puffing locomotive stayed lingering in my dreams while asleep and the subject to build castles while awake.

It was then by chance and luck of great magnitude as I saw it, that I could travel in the locomotive along with the driver and his assistant. This fortune came my road many, many years ago while I was in Kottayam during a mid- summer vacation from school. I was sent to my aunt (mother’s sister) who lived there. She lived in the housing quarter provided to her husband who worked in the Railways. The housing quarter was a stone throw from the main tracks of the train station and a small open park straddled the railway tracks.
It was one evening and I was with some boys of my age playing in the park. When a locomotive hissed by and stopped with loud clutter and clatter on the track near us. We turned our attention and ran towards the engine. It was driven by someone who was the parent of one of the boys. He asked us if we would want to hop in for a ride. And I guess I was the first one to jump for the invite. So there and then I did my first and only travel in the locomotive .The driver was on a shunting mission and for some fifteen minutes he took us in. I could even help his assistant to shove coal into the furnace and also they let me tug at the cord overhead that sent shrill whistle. It was fascinating experience of a dream that became very true and  nothing alike was felt when I chanced to travel first time in an aero plane.



NRIGirl said...

So cool!

Balachandran V said...

That's one wonderful piece of boyhood! i'd rather hitch my wagon to a steam engine, huffing and puffing, than a jet plane!

....Petty Witter said...

What a wonderfully poetic post, it was one of my childhood dreams to be able to go to bed on a train.

kavita said...

Envy you :)

BK Chowla, said...

You must visit rail Museum in Delhi

A New Beginning said...

Very well written :) Enjoyed reading the post!

KParthasarathi said...

Fascinating narration.It is the dream of every little boy to become an engine driver.The one advantage that appealed to me was that train cannot leave without you in it!!I too wished to be in the steam engine but it never came to pass.You are lucky that way.
I could live the scenes as I read your delectable post written in great style.

The madrasi said...

This post made me remember my childhood ambition!to be a plane driver!
nice post...for me in my childhood I was amused how the train drivers turned such a big train after completing the journey to return back.
But now I realize the stupid doubts I had!

Meera Sundararajan said...

Yes steam engines are what childhood games used to be made of " Coo.. chuk chuk chuk". I am a railway kid- grew up literally on trains- have ridden with my father on different locomotives and absolutely enjoyed myself. BTW I am copying and pasting a link from youtube. It is a beautiful song by R.D. Burman picturised in the movie on an egnine driver

rama said...

Yes, we all wanted to be there where the action is.
I have had many train journeys with my parents, from one remote place to another, changing trains, of course never got the chance to travel with the engine driver.
Have travelled by the old 1st class, which used to be a separate coach with its own attached bathroom, It was so much fun travelling those days.
Now a days even the 1st class looks and feels like a third class, or maybe we all travel in third class which seems to have been upgraded, it all seems to be the same.

anilkurup said...

@ NRIGirl/@ Petty Witter/@ Kavita/@ BK Chowla/@ A New Beginning@ K Parthasarathi/@ The Madrasi/@ M@ Rama/@ Balachandran
Meera Sunderajan.

Thanks for the comments. yea a childhood fantasy. many such seems funny and sometimes timid too.

Betty Manousos@ CUT and DRY said...

i really enjoyed reading your post.

very poetically written.

anilkurup said...

@ Betty Manousos@ CUT and DRY

Thanks for the appreciation. But nothing lyrical like the pictures you post in your Blog.

Insignia said...

Oh! I am late.

So many memories Anil. But yeah I havent had a chance to travel in a coal powered rail. The huffs and puffs - have seen in old movies. I would love to take a trip if offered one now.

anilkurup said...

@ Insignia,

I wondered if you missed the train, not seeing you on blog for a while

ousu said...

Anil - I quote mr B, "wonderful piece of boyhood..and yours made me be a boy, like I have never been anything else and I see a man standing before the mirror, staring at me. have you felt it while looking at a mirror?

R.Ramakrishnan said...

That is a great piece from your boyhood days. I suppose we were all fascinated by the steam locomotive during our school days and to become an engine driver was almost every kids ambition.
I wonder what young kids dream of these days ?
Incidentally I have a new post exclusively on Nataraja bronzes.

....Petty Witter said...

Stopping by to say hello.

anilkurup said...

@ Ousu,
Often I feel the Mirror reflects one part of me.Which is the and which is not , or the other part , is sometimes inexplicable and illusive to me.
It is quite odd. Thanks for the comment Ousu.
@ R. Ramakrishnan,

Yes indeed those days train was a dream in motion. Well in the present day is it space ship?

@ Petty Wiiter,

Even late comment from people like you who0 discern are always held close.

Makk said...

Ferry Queen passed through over town.

I went to touch her, smell her despite of 104 fever. :)

bridge thing, I did with diesel engines, and first time was unexplainable indeed, hahaha... there after got chance to travel in engine many times.

and yeah, surprisingly first flight was nothing as such.