"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.