| Binay Maity breaks down on hearing about the death of his father, a pantry employee. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Barsabad (Bihar), Sept. 10: This single-platform forlorn station, about 100 km south-east of Gaya on the Howrah-New Delhi main line, has never perhaps witnessed such tumult or even such contrasting human emotions.
The train carrying relatives of passengers on the ill-fated Rajdhani Express, who had travelled from Howrah, reached Barsabad at 6.30 pm. The small station was dimly lit and quite desolate. Minutes later, a train from the other direction rolled in. But the passengers on board the train from Howrah had no clue where it was from.
Until the PA system crackled. “A train carrying passengers of the derailed 2301 Rajdhani Express has arrived.”
It was as if the starting pistol of a race had sounded. Passengers on the relatives’ train rushed out and crossed the intervening tracks to the train that had just arrived, shouting out the names of their kin. Suddenly, commotion and chaos fuelled by hope of seeing their near ones alive reigned.
There were about 150 passengers on the train from Gaya, who had a miraculous escape and had decided to return to Calcutta. One of the first to be reunited were Rup and Rina with their father Yusuf Khan, who was going to Ajmer for Urs on the Rajdhani. They saw their father with a bandage around his head from a distance.
They rushed to him and dissolved in tears of joy as they embraced their father. But then, the joy was replaced with shrieks of anguish when he said his mother and younger son had died.
Names continued to be shouted as the frantic search continued. “Bhaiya!” cried out Bimal Bairagi as he recognised R.N. Bairagi through the bandages. The latter was on coach AS-2. He had been injured on his waist and hand. Two more relatives, this time of Anup Sikdar who was on AS-1, found their loved one.
Relief writ large on his face, S. Joardar greeted his son Bapi on the platform. Bapi was on coach AS-5 of the Rajdhani.
But Rekha, who had boarded the relatives’ special train with a neighbour, could not find her husband, Ashok Sau, an employee in the pantry car. She went from bogie to bogie, calling out his name. But to no avail.
She had to carry on to Gaya, struggling to keep her hopes alive. Keeping her company was Avdesh, son of Ram Perbesh Bhagat, another employee in the Rajdhani’s pantry car. His search for his father continued.
Chanchal Mukherjee was looking for brother Nilanjan. “He had called us on his roving mobile around 10.30 last night, saying he had just finished dinner and was going to sleep. But after that, there has been no response on his phone.”
About 15 minutes into the search, cries rent the air from the end of the survivors’ train. Anita Chatterjee, who had come alone looking for her father, Sukhdeb, who was on AS-5, went berserk with grief. Her father was not on the train.
Those who had been reunited, shed copious tears of relief, unmindful of a platform milling with people. Some promptly knelt down on the platform to pay obeisance to the almighty.
Perhaps happiest among them was Jagannath Mukherjee. Before boarding the special train, he had been told at Howrah that his son Uttam was among the casualties. He had taken his seat on the train in a flood of tears that drained all hope.
When his cellphone rang at Asansol, he could not believe his ears. It was his son calling to say that he was alive and had reached Delhi.