By Tammana Shokeen:
Everyone I know in Kashmir has never been on a journey in the state railways, not even for a halt. And I committed the blunder of travelling in one. After reading my bitter experience underlined below, I guarantee no one will even think of travelling in a Kashmiri train in the future.
It was a chilly morning of 4th November. At about 9.30 am, I was waiting patiently at the railway station Sopore with my sisters and there was a huge rabble waiting over there. I had travelled once before in a Kashmir train, but I had never noticed such a huge crowd, as I did that day.
The train reached Sopore station and halted as if a whale was attacking a ship in the water. Sceptical of what might happen after I board the train, I still boarded it. Security at the train station was lazying around and woke up just as the train blew its horn. Seeing the train, everyone jumped on it, as if they were devouring a dead body. To my utter shock, I saw the railway police beating up people with aluminium rods, as they usually do on the streets of Kashmir anyways. I barely managed to enter the train with my sisters and after seeing what happened on the platform, I was expecting a huge mob inside the train box, but my expectation was proven wrong, thankfully. When I looked inside the train, I saw that it was empty. Relieved, I sat down inside the train. But then, a stench started coming. I suddenly felt as if I was in a garbage carrier.
As the train travelled from Budagam to Srinagar, the crowd assembling outside the train box seemed to reach its climax at every station, but no one was getting into the train, which seemed strange to me. I looked behind me and suddenly my sight was attracted to the seat cover on which I was seated, attracted to it not because of its cleanliness and beauty, but because it was covered by dirt. I looked forward at the table which is attached to the seats in order to use laptops, and saw that it was closed and locked with a flexible and key like instrument. It was inked and fully filled by written numbers and names on it which just instigated me to open it. When I did so, it fell on my knees as its nut bolted joints were loose. I repented for opening it as it was safely locked.I continued to smell a scent which was like garbage and I felt like I would faint.
A heavy man was resting on the seat beside mine, and his head fell on my back. My shoulder began to pain and I asked asked him to get up. He looked at me with a hate as if he was going to kill me on the spot. Meanwhile the train halted at Bijbihara station after taking 3 hours to reach there. Even the distance covered by the train was at a snail’s pace, shocking for a state train service. After 10 minutes we were told to climb into another train. I was asked by my sisters to book seats for the next train, which turned out to be the toughest exam of my life.
I stayed on the tip of the rail pot in order to perform my task but fortunately the train’s door was far away from the point where I was standing. I was forced to move towards the door, where, to my horror, I saw people trying to climb into the train and enter our compartment, wherever they found even a little gap within the broken glass.
That day, I was furious at everyone who was travelling in that train. I felt as if it wasn’t a train, but an accumulation of local buses being used to deceive us in the shape of a train. Not only was the train dirty, and impossible to travel in, but there was massive crowd outside the stations, who were trying to illegally board the train. This made me realise the futility of paying for a service which doesn’t even provide you proper service, yet is outside the reach of many. Kashmir is considered one of the most beautiful states of India, and it is also called ‘mini-Switzerland’ by many. But even after years and years of promise by various governments for development, this is the tragic condition of the state railways. When we pay money to access a service, we do expect some quality. But here the train was being treated like a local bus, where everyone could board, and the police needed to discipline the crowd. It made me imagine what the state of other public transport across the state must be that was compelling people to resort to boarding the train this way.
Not allowing people to board the train is not what is needed. The solution will be to take note of the fact that this is the actual condition of trains, and it is time that someone takes some action to relieve Kashmiris from the daily torture of travelling in a state train.