Let the journey begin

"Oh, Bangali? Which part of Kolkata are you from?"

If I got a taka (or Rupee as the rest of India likes to refer to the currency) for each time I was asked that question, I'd feature prominently in Bengal's wealthy list by now. Just to put it in perspective, 96% of West Bengal's 91 million residents live outside of its capital. I happen to be one of those 87 million.

Growing up in Asansol - a steel-coal-rail town of West Bengal on the Bengal-Jharkhand border, Kolkata was 'the city' for us. Almost all of us had relatives in Kolkata, and that meant at least one vacation a year to the epicenter of all energy. I particularly remember the winter holidays to my mashi's place in Jadavpur. We'd start preparing for the two hundred-odd kilometer trip with the fervour of a journey to the poles and back. It would be an early lights-out the night before, as we had to catch the Agneeveena Express (then called the Asansol Express) at 5:30 in the morning. The excitement peaked as the auto wallah rang the door-bell, piercing through the calm of the wintry morning. After taking up our reserved seats and more importantly, placing the luggage in a carefully chosen location so that it would be visible from all angles, the chaa-jhal muri breakfast would begin. If it was a weekday then once we crossed Durgapur the "daily-passengers" would start streaming in, taking up half a seat at the ends of the four benches facing each other, and then tie the ends of a handkerchief to whip up a quick fix bridge table. Barddhaman was the psychological mid-way mark, and once we crossed that station, the countdown for Howrah junction began.

As we crossed Liluah - the penultimate station, the beeline for the door would begin. Everyone would start guarding their bags and other accoutrements with an added zeal, remembering to check their pockets every now and then. No sooner than the platform appeared by the windows, the coolies in their red uniforms and metallic arm bands would swoop down into the compartments, swiftly ignoring the single men and going straight for their target audience - families with large suitcases.

Finally the train would come to a standstill, the mad rush to be the first to get down on the platform would begin, and the next part of the journey would start - getting a taxi.


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Comments (8)
Srirupa Ganguly Reply
October 25, 2013
Suhel, you have brilliantly described the joy, excitement and immense sense of belonging that me and my brother felt every time we boarded the Agniveena Express ( better known as Bidhan Express) during our childhood years! ..Having spent the first 20 years of my most formative days in Asansol your article was a nostalgic trip down the memory lane.
Sumanta Reply
October 25, 2013
I used stay with my parents in steel town of Rourkela. I can relate to every word that is written here. Thanks Suhel
Anomita Reply
August 17, 2013
Nodded and smiled at every single sentence. Good old times! Great article.
devdeep Reply
August 17, 2013
Well written Suhel. Don't know how i missed this portion... but it's very good. The handkerchief being used as a bridge table... that was very innovative... had forgotten about that completely... keep up the good work! Cheers!!
Agnivo Reply
August 15, 2013
Pieces like these connect directly with the heart. A slice of memories. Part of life. Amazing.
Suhel Banerjee
August 15, 2013
Thank you Agnivo. Glad you could connect with it.
Rangan Mitra Reply
August 14, 2013
Wonderfully written; could almost feel the din and bustle of a busy Bengal rail station.. I feel its still the same and things like these are better not changed.. Am earnestly awaiting the next anecdote.
Suhel Banerjee
August 15, 2013
Thank you Rangan. The next post is ready and should be up soon!
akshyaya Reply
August 14, 2013
whats next?Eagerly waiting for the complete story.Excellent piece of writing.truly ingenious.
Suhel Banerjee
August 15, 2013
Thank you Akshaya. Coming up next - getting into the famed yellow cab!
Guest Reply
August 13, 2013
Before I comment want to know when the next piece is coming ... what happened at the taxi stand. Immediate connect with memories. Loved the name - very innovative.
Suhel Banerjee
August 15, 2013
Thank you very much!
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