Sunday, February 19, 2012

The fatak wala sardar

Sometimes I feel too stressed to even think. No matter what, the eternal optimist in me too fades away sometimes, and with it goes my ability to think 'don't worry, things'll be fine soon.' Why I feel this way, or not feel any other way is not the matter of this post.

I went to Khanna with my family to visit an aunt today, and had a strange experience. When I say strange, I do not mean strange as in weird or life-changing or anything, but strange in the way it made me think about what I've been thinking. That takes me to what I've been thinking lately, and it turns out that I've been worrying way too much, almost beyond the limit of worrying without any cause, if there is one. There are a lot of things can make me mad, but playing into the thought patterns that these things put you into is a bit too idiotic for me. Or seems now in retrospect when I am writing this post.

As we reached my Aunt's home, I came to know that a railway line passes from near their home, and that a lot many trains pass from there everyday. The lot many part is whats responsible for this post. That, and the fact that I am very much a train freak. I just love traveling by, talking about, looking at, and (sometimes) simply thinking about trains. So I just had to go to the rail lines and see one or two of them pass by. And that too just about 300-350 yards. As I am about to go there, my uncle (Masser-ji, in Punjabi) tells me that he too will accompany me, and then my brother and my aunt's younger son too join us.

As we move towards the lines, uncle-ji tells us about a railway crossing nearby. So I persuade everyone we move towards the crossing to.... I don't know, just because I wanted to.

Reaching there, I ask/talk about the kinds of trains that pass from there, the number of trains passing from there in a day etc. we wait for about 15-20 minutes when a train comes and goes, and in about five more minutes, masser-ji tells us, another will pass. I get more excited, with the first four words in this line seeming utterly idiotic to me now.

Like all things in this post, without any reason I propose we all go to the crossing manning guy, whatever he's called, fatak-wala banda to me at least. The others stood outside talking, while I go into the small room containing his stuff, a roster for the trains' timings, all sorts of equipment (which he later told me was almost never used), and a clock that didn't seemed to work since the time we have railway crossings in this world! The man, a sardar turned out to be a very warm and cordial person.

As I talk to him about trains, the way he gets to know when to pull the levers, the way railway signals work etc., a train comes and goes, and (this had to happen at some time) the others get bored and tell me they are going home. I ask the guy about the next train, and he tells me that Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi and Shane-e-Punjab will pass from there in some time. As a result, I tell the others to go home, and that I'll come after having a look at the two trains.

As the others leave, I began talking more and more with the guy, and turns out he used to live in Mohali once, though that was very far off in time and all (ain't Mohali a new city?).... Anyways, he tells me that Shatabdi should've passed his crossing by then, and that it was running a bit too late. Now, with the traffic passing through the crossing at that time, it meant that at any moment of time, a phone call would arrive and he would have to close the fatak, change the signals with the levers etc. Making sure that all the traffic passed in time, or at least waited when he would close (or lower) the fatak would be very important.

In just a few minutes, a call arrives, and after mumbling a few words, and scribbling a few numbers on his notebook, he tells me he's going to close the fatak. But due to the traffic, he could not do it for about 5 minutes, and those 5 minutes were very difficult for him. He had to practically yell at the people riding the cars, trucks, bikes, the cyclists, the rickshaw-wallas, the pedestrians walking slowly and some more. Even I tried going in the middle of the road and trying to tell the people to wait or pass quickly, but.. lesson learnt: I can't ever be a traffic policeman!

Another phone call, and the same mumbling/scribbling routine, and the guy tells me another train is coming. So, with an even more sense of urgency, he goes out and starts yelling at the people, who this time budge, and allow him to close the fatak. In just about a few seconds, we hear the horn of a train engine, and in a minute the Shatabdi comes and goes, just like an aandhi. In about 2-3 minutes, another train (Shere-e-Punjab) too passes and then he releases the fatak, and then the traffic goes on in its frantic manner. Things are normal. I bid him farewell and start walking towards away to my aunt's home.

As I walked, I thought of the amount of stress the fatak-wala man had to go through in a day, with almost a hundeed trains passing through the crossing during his 12-hour shift. My stresses and worries are nothing as compared to the responsibility that he, as a meager class-IV government employee had to handle. Honestly, I think I am unable to express the amount of frustration he went through in about 5 minutes, and the amounts of it he goes through all the time.

As I said, sometimes I feel too stressed to even think. This has to be one of those times. What amazes me is that all the timemost of the time, it takes somebody else's plight to notice that we are in a far better place than them. I am not stressed at my situation, I am feeling like an idiot for being stressed about my situation, when the world has obviously more important things to worry about.