In December 1985 I was working in Mysore Division as Divisional Operating Superintendent when the Member Traffic (MT) of the Railway Board visited the Division. Little did I know that the visit would alter my life in the manner in which it did. The MT mentioned that they want youngsters to go to Eastern and South Eastern Railways (SER), where officers were short. These two Railways contributed to nearly half of the total Indian Railways’ originating freight loading. I thought that an experience on one of these systems would help me understand operations better and hone my skills. When I volunteered for a posting to SER, the reactions of friends, relations and colleagues were exactly the same as when I announced this journey – “Wow, wish I could do that” and ‘What a madcap”!
I was posted to Khurda Division upon reporting to SER in April 1986. Maya was barely 4 months old when we relocated to Khurda. I worked with some outstanding officers in the Division such as K Ravindra, the DRM, who later became the Chairman Railway Board. The railway colony was infested with snakes and Beena used to be mortified with the safety of Maya uppermost in her mind. This prompted Samuel, the Commandant RPF and my neighbor, to comfort Beena with the statement, “See snake, call Samuel”. I visited Khurda early today, but could not identify the house where we lived. The church we worshipped in and the Rest House where we initially lived have been renovated. Everything looked different, naturally. A visit to the room of the Senior Divisional Operations Manager, which I had occupied for about 5 months in 1986, and the Control Office brought back pleasant memories. I also met a few people who had worked with me; however, most had either retired or passed away.
Back in Bhubaneswar I met with my batch mate RK Tandon, who is the Chief Operations Manager of East Coast Railway, PK Misra, a dear friend and colleague from my days in Bilaspur (he is spearheading the construction of the new 82 km railway line from Haridaspur to Pradip), Subrat Tripati, who was Deputy Chairman and acting Chairman of Paradip Port Trust for five years till very recently, MNS Ray, my colleague in Bilaspur, HS Joshi, the Chief Commercial Manager and Guru Ray, who is on deputation with the State Government. Tandon is a wonderful artist; his house is a virtual gallery of excellent pieces of sculpture – he works on marble and wood. His recent works of a couple in marble and of a family in wood are exquisite masterpieces. I have suggested that he hold a public exhibition of his works. When he was the DRM of Ajmer Division he used the iron scrap generated by the workshop to create modern art, which he installed in various railway premises. The ‘Tree of Life’ created out of historic bridge plates is a beauty and it adorns the Ajmer Divisional Office.
PK Misra hosted lunch at the Bhubaneswar Club and what a lunch it was. In slightly over 2 hours 4 of us had consumed 25 bottles of beer, had generous helpings of mutton fry and cheese balls. Srimoy Kar, the Resident Editor was part of the company in the Club. His experiences with the President, Prime Ministers and media of our country were education in itself. All through the bonding experience Tandon kept us in splits with his jokes. The lunch was an excellent experience in Oriya cuisine – Macho Basero, Baddi Churra and Mutton curry.
After many visits to the toilet to excrete the excess quantity of water in the body following the intake of beer, I had two appointments with the correspondents of Deccan Chronicle and Indian Express. The evening wound up with a meeting of the local Kerala Kala Samithi members (a parochial meeting, as PK put it!).