Regaling stories in the railway milieu

Regaling stories in the railway milieu

The railway staff from the gang-man to the engineer work day and night, braving any odds to see that the services are efficiently run; and the way...

The railway staff from the gang-man to the engineer work day and night, braving any odds to see that the services are efficiently run; and the way they toil on a war-footing in the case of accidents and emergencies, deserves recognition. This idea inspired the South Central Railway in its golden jubilee year to come up with an anthology of railway-centric Telugu stories as a tribute to the railway staff.

And 17 of the 39 stories in the compilation are by railway staff or those connected with it – each having already been published in various newspapers/magazines. With the cover pic by Bijay Biswal, a former TTE, the stories, selected out of hundreds and edited by K Muralikrishna, K Muralimohan and S Venkataswamy Naidu – all railway personnel, happen in trains across the country and appeal to readers of every age-group and walk of life.

Apart from the railway staff as characters, the themes portray the plight of the precarious lot – needy vendors, beggars, poor orphans, destitute girls, physically and mentally disadvantaged, highlighting that they are not devoid of self-respect, honesty and kindness.

The stories also show the ways of alcoholic employees and irresponsible husbands; expose the armchair intellectuals who act contrary to their own ideological claims; and yearn for altruism and communal harmony.

There is also a tickling story satirising the common rung of Telugu movies, but which finally ends in a cinematic way. Regional dialects employed in some of the stories add a native flavour. And there is a refreshing one with children’s lingo.

While most of the train-friendships are fleeting, a few can be abiding and long-lasting; while trains could unwittingly separate some from their families, they can also epiphanically unite or reunite them.

The idiosyncrasies of certain passengers abhorring the side-lower berths near the door or those with a fond attachment for the third class in order to remain grounded to their social reality; the crassness and bullying nature of some of the passengers; cruelty to animals transported for meat; the repercussions from the neglect of rules of safety while travelling; robbers or terrorists sneaking in, in the mask of innocence and causing havoc; and journeys with hilarious romantic interludes – form part of these stories.

Trains or railway properties are exploited for a variety of illegal and unlawful purposes with a collusion between internal and external cabals, as reflected in some stories.

The stories depict the railway staff in a wide spectrum of attitudes – lazy to diligent, negligent to meticulous, gentle to highhanded, honest to venal, callous to helpful. The woes of the passengers in the general coaches of ordinary trains; the uncompromising duty-consciousness of a driver even after his death; the misfortune of some employees who are coldly victimised are a part.

Wise to the fact that nobody can be absolutely perfect, let’s recognise the hard work of the railway staff, and let’s not be uncharitably critical or frivolous, but be rather empathic and thankful.

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