The Rajdhani Express tragedy dissolved international boundaries, wiping out an entire Bangladeshi family, along with several others from this side of the border. Among those claimed by Monday’s nightmare on bridge no. 445 at Rafiganj were railway officials, on business trips to Delhi, and families on pilgrimage to Badrinath.
The Bangladeshi family — headed by A. Khan, who had an Indian partner for his foodgrain export business — was en route to the Delhi leg of its Indian trip. Khan’s 25-year-old wife, Rokeya Begum, and five-year-old son, Surat, also died.
Rekha Goenka of Salt Lake, whose residential phone number the family had given to the railway authorities as their local contact, said the family was from Chittagong and had arrived in Calcutta on Saturday. “They put up at a Burrabazar guest-house and were supposed to return to Bangladesh after the trip to Delhi,” Goenka added.
Closer home, an elderly Bengali couple from Hazra — Ranadeb Chatterjee, 58, and wife Gita, 55 — boarded AS-1 on the Rajdhani via Gaya for a pilgrimage to Kedarnath and Badrinath. It was the Gaya Government Railway Police that first called up their son Arindam, to tell him about the mishap.
A few hours later, Ranadeb Chatterjee called his son. “Aami make niye aschi. Aar kauke aashte hobe na. (I am returning with your mother. No one needs to come here),” he said. Gita Chatterjee had not survived the accident.
With reports of deaths pouring in, railway officials learned of the loss of some of their colleagues. At least three railwaymen were on their way to Delhi — all of them on official work — by 2301 Up.
Two of them were dead when reports last came in and another was fighting for his life at a hospital near the accident site.
One of the victims was Dulal Palchaudhuri of Bandel. It was a colleague (O.P. Singh) who first called up Dulal’s nephew, Abhijit, informing him of the accident. Abhijit, and the rest of the family, then tuned into the news on TV and learnt that an emergency train was leaving Howrah station at noon.
Abhijit, his father (Biswanath Palchaudhuri) and a cousin (Chandan Das) immediately left for Howrah, where they heard the news they were dreading.
Another railway official on the casualty list was a Metro Railway senior telecom engineer, G.C. Majumdar. But Metro vigilance inspector J.K. Mandal’s family, comprising MBBS-studying daughter Amrita and wife Anjali, was breathing easy. Mandal was among the injured, they learned, to their relief.