Shyampukur resident Debarati Chatterjee boarded the Metro on Wednesday from Sovabazar to visit a relative at Hazra. She was accompanied by her mother, Aruna. At 12.55pm, Metro found the mother and daughter on the platform at Esplanade station. Debarati, in her thirties, was consoling her mother Aruna, 61, who was gasping for breath and could barely speak. Debarati narrated how just another Metro ride had ended in the “most scary 30 minutes” of her life.
I often travel by Metro around this time so I could make out there were more passengers on the train today, probably because of the bus strike. My mother fortunately got a ladies’ seat. I stood till Central, where I got a place next to her. We considered ourselves very lucky.
Till the train left Chandni station.
It must have been a minute after the train entered the tunnel that the lights started flickering and the train started slowing down and shuddering. Most of us are now accustomed to such mood swings of the Calcutta lifeline. At first, no one paid much heed and I kept chatting with my mother.
Suddenly, the lights went out completely and the fans stopped. The very next second the train came to halt. My mother held on to my hand. It was pitch dark and I could only see some dim lights on the walls outside.
Many people started to use their cellphones for some light. I could see some elderly passengers getting anxious while some youngsters still appeared oblivious. A few minutes passed like this. Nobody knew what was happening.
Around 10 minutes later, the public address system crackled to life but the announcement only said the train had stopped because of some “power problem”. What next? How long? Who will help? No clue.
Suddenly there was a commotion in the coach behind us. I saw two boys half-carrying an elderly gentleman. He had collapsed in his seat after complaining of breathlessness. My mother started crying seeing the gentleman. Her breathing turned heavy and laboured. Even I was having difficulty breathing but I knew I had to be strong for my mother.
After a few minutes we heard some thumping sounds from the front portion of the train. And then a shrill siren rent the air. It must have been half an hour since we had stopped. The public address system crackled again. The voice said that a gate in the driver’s cabin had been opened and the passengers could walk out of the train. I can’t thank my co-passengers enough for all the help they extended to bring my mother out of the train and onto the platform.
Around 1.30pm, Debarati’s father and elder brother arrived at Esplanade station. Debarati, who had been strong for her mother till then, hugged her father tight and broke down.
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