Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Lovedale Station Master

Nandu is one of those lucky ones who can escape the scorching summers of Kerala every year, by going up the mountains. His paternal grandparents live near the famous south Indian hill resort of Ootacamund in the Nilgiri Hills in the Western Ghats, in the beautiful valley near Lovedale.

As train enthusiasts all over the world know, there is a metre gauge railway service that snakes it way up from the plains, starting from the town of Mettupalayam, all the way up to Ootacamund, or Ooty as it is popularly known. The little “Toy Train,” much loved by tourists and Bollywood alike, takes more than four hours to traverse a distance of 46 kilometres, but then, this is not a train you take for reaching some place in a hurry, but for the magnificent views that it offers, as it chugs its languorous way through lush valleys, sublime meadows, and neatly laid-out tea gardens.

Lovedale has a tiny little station and Nandu, ever the train enthusiast, spends most of the day there, watching the trains go by. Very soon, he becomes the close friend and confidante of the station master, following him around as the elderly gentleman goes about his daily chores.

One day, he finds his friend, the stationmaster, in a depressed mood. He has been transferred to a remote station, somewhere in the plains.

Young Nandu is sympathetic: “To which station have you been transferred?” he asks.

“Some godforsaken place,” says the stationmaster. “A place called Dasampatti. I don’t even know where on the earth this wretched place is.”

The ten-year old does not miss a beat. “Oh! Dasampatti!” he says with absolute certainty, “comes between Samalpatti and Doddampatti. In the Salem-Jolarpet sector.”

Unfortunately, no camera was at hand to record the expression on the stationmaster’s face for posterity.

Nandu is now past thirty and works in the IT/Insurance sector. He continues to be passionate about trains, loves receiving or seeing off people at Chennai Central and, needless to add, prefers train journeys to any other mode of transport. His knowledge of the trains of the Indian Railways has become even more formidable and encyclopaedic now, a fact he smiles off with characteristic modesty. When it comes to train timings, cancellation rules, Tatkal schemes or booking tickets through the Internet, our family consults no timetable or looks up no reference guide.

We just ask Nandu.

Photo Courtesy: Shiraz's Public Gallery, Picasa Web Albums


Lekhni said...

That's a good one! It's amazing how many fans the Railways have, some of them real experts on train cars, timetables etc. I cannot imagine anyone being a fan of any other train system the same way. Imagine being an Amtrak fan..

Ganga said...

I remember the 10-year old Nandan to be a guide to the visitors at Dad's home in Lovedale. The highlight of his guided tour that nobody could ever miss was the ride to Ketti station in the early morning Coonoor train and a ride back by the crossing pair from Ketti!

Rada said...


Funny you should mention it, but Nandu did tell me recently, in case he is sent to US on an assignement, he has to check out Amtrak!


That is hilarious! I wish I had consulted you before writing this post!

Cynic in Wonderland said...

you know i need to say this, love the way you pen these snippets - something almost ruskin bond about their simplicity and earthiness.

Rada said...


What is happening? Are you actually complimenting me?

My can knock me down with a feather now!

Made my day, I can tell ya!

Ben Israel said...

Made my eyes wet. Are you the Nandu, mr.blogger?

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.