Someone please give me a bravery award! I managed to get a seat in Krishnanagar Local at 5:30 PM on a Friday! You did’t get the point? Then you have not lived in Kolkata for sure. Anyone who has lived in Kolkata for even a short period of time and does not have a pretty loaded wallet will understand the value of the achievement.
For others, let me explain. Kolkata is the economic, social and cultural hub of all of east India to say the least. Millions of people living around the city travel to and from the city daily generally for office work. And the most common mode of transport used by them is the local train (because it is the cheapest). Hence there are two peak times for train travel (dictated by office hours) – around 9:30 in the morning and 5:30 in the evening. And if you ever get the opportunity to be in Sealdah Station someday during these times, you will understand what do they actually mean by saying The Sea of Humans”
The locals have a life of their own…a uniqueness quite difficult to describe in words. Here you will find scenes which are bound to change the way you think that things may happen. Take for example, the vendors – one of the identifying features of the train. You will be amazed to see how a person carrying a huge head load can squeeze through the compartments where people hardly find any space to keep themselves in a vertical position.
What more? If you are lucky, you would be able to find an example of exceptional memory retention power. In the compartments with daily passengers; you may find a time when a tea vendor enters the compartment; gives a cup of tea each to a selected set of people, and goes away without asking a penny. I was astonished by the scene when I first saw it. Then a gentleman quenched my curiosity as he said that the tea vendor recognises each of their faces. He takes the money once in a month. That’s amazing! the vendor keeps track of not less that 500 people, and remembers how many days he was present in a month! That is a walking record book!
Another characteristic of the train-passengers is their passion towards playing cards. In a situation where people are literally falling on each other, you would find a group of four people who would have spread out a large handkerchief between their thighs and are peacefully playing cards (and not to forget, the advisory group sitting right beside them, giving suggestions on the moves they ought to play). Recently I noticed newer trends as I discovered people standing on gate of the compartment and playing cards and people without a handkerchief playing cards on the floor of the compartment.
There are many more scenes that you can never forget once you visit the local trains – people carrying portable hooks to hang their bags, the awkward angles in which a human body can bend in space crunch, the strive to place some commodity on the seat in order to book it and unusual taglines used be the vendors to allure the customers. Millions of people struggling to reach their destinations on time.
And between all this chaos, when you hear a passenger saying, “Dada! Ei train er alada nesha achhe. Apni roj ei train ke dhorar jonno ja khushi tai koren (Mate! This train has an attraction of its own. You can do whatever it takes to board this train daily).” You realise that you are in the land of weird,
nostalgic and loving people – The Land of Bengal.