A big open house expands horizons of a boy. It gives him a feel for the expanse. Boy hopes to become an engine driver so that he can move on from one part of the country to another.
The boy spent his early childhood in Balasore, considered a small town in Orissa state in eastern India. He still remembers the house they lived in. Local people called the building Rajbari or palace. It was a two storied building. Rooms were massive. Each room had big doors and French windows. On a windy day or nigh during monsoon season, sea wind in all their fury would come rushing from one side and exit through the other, making a howling noise.
His family, father, mother and him, occupied the first floor. Rajbari offered a view of surrounding. Open empty ground in front, a big pond behind, a tennis court on the side and hutment of tribals on the other. It gave a feeling of limitlessness. Those days Balasore was a small town scarcely populated. From the terrace of Rajbari, that actually encircled the floor from all sides, he would watch his father going to office cutting the field diagonally and disappear in the distance. There was a sense of mystery in the routine. An inexplicable. He wished to be a traveller who would walk into the horizon and slowly fade away.
Those days families used to go for evening walk after office. Frankly there was not much to do. Television was a rarity those days. Boy would drag his father to Balasore railway station.
“When will train come, baba?”
“Soon. We are going there?”
“which train baba? Where is it coming from?”
“I think Madras mail. Coming from Howrah”
“Why do we call it Madras mail?”
“Because it goes to Madras.”
Madras mail used to make a stop at the Balasore station. Boy was fascinated by engine. Those were the time when steam locomotives were being replaced gradually by a diesel engine. Boy did not like diesel engine. He felt steam loco had a character. Its black body, shrill siren had certain strength, certain majesty associated with it. Whereas diesel engines were more like sophisticated city people. Nevertheless, he and his father became friendly to loco drivers. Once or twice he was taken inside the engine and had a birds eye view of the track ahead.
That was the time, the boy felt if he would become a driver of a locomotive. He would move from station to station without any attachment, stopping by only to drop old and pick up new passengers. As the boy grows up, he understands childhood dreams are broken more often than not. One learns to live and life goes on.
Tags: Balasore, Diesel Engine, Madras Mail, Orissa, Railway Station, Rajbari, Steam Locomotive