| Coffins bearing bodies of the victims of the Rajdhani Express accident arrive at platform no. 21 in Howrah station on Wednesday evening. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
They had gone to receive the dead and came back with the living.
Naresh Routh, a pantry-car bearer, was in for a most unusual homecoming on Wednesday afternoon, when he “returned from the dead”. His friends, who had received information that the young man had perished in the fatal train accident, flung aside the charpoy, sheets and flowers to help their heavily-bandaged friend off the bogie.
When the special train carrying 18 bodies and a number of injured passengers from the Rafiganj Rajdhani crash site pulled into Burdwan station, Naresh had no idea he had been taken for dead.
“We were told that he was dead and his body would be arriving by this train,” exclaimed Samaresh Saha, who had come with a group of youth from Gangpur. Naresh, still in shock after the ordeal, had suffered injuries to the chest, arms and legs.
He was, however, able to recount some of Monday night’s events. “I was in AS-4 for, reaching out for bedrolls to distribute to passengers who had boarded the train at Gaya. Suddenly, there was a loud crunching sound. All these things tumbled on me and then I lost consciousness,” Naresh relived.
The youth was taken “triumphantly” back home, to his young wife and child, who had stayed at home as they “could not stand to be there to collect his body”. But there was no stretcher available at the platform, and he had to be helped off the train by railway staff, grabbing on to his wounded arms and legs.
At one end of the platform, where the bogie carrying the dead had come to a halt, family members rushed to receive the body of B.K. Mishra, a resident of Lakshmipur Math in Burdwan, a pantry-car inspector. His brother, Laksminarayan Mishra, also a pantry-car staff, is still missing.
Another brother, Amit, and some relatives and friends, had to jostle with the anxious crowd, to get to the body. The crowd had gathered far before the train pulled in, with the police trying to keep concerned relatives and curious onlookers under control.
For some, however, the wait proved futile.
Among the crowd were friends of the Bisi family. Biswanath Bisi, his wife Sabita and their son, Biswajit, were on 2301 Up, but were nowhere to be found on the emergency train. Their Gangpur neighbours had come to meet them, but their journey was in vain. “We thought they would be among the injured coming back home on this train,” said one of the Bisi’s friends, trying to peer through the barred windows of the coach. The family may still be at a hospital in Mughal Sarai.
It was much the same story for Amitabha Das at Howrah — where the train reached at 4.30 pm. He could hardly take the strain of not knowing where his father, Arun Das, a railway employee living in Hooghly’s Begumpur, was. Passing out under the tension, Amitabha’s relatives tried desperately to calm him down.
When he finally learnt that his father had not been “fortunate” enough to catch the first train back, he decided to head back home.
But not before he promised to be waiting on the platform again, on Thursday, in case Arun Das made it back home on the third train.