Memory Trigger 11. Jamalpur.

My facebook friend Sanjay posted this video on his page with the comment “Love these old world ladies, what charm and majesty.”

I could not agree more.

My earliest memory of steam engines goes back to my childhood when my uncle used to come to Chennai by train from a place called Vaniyambadi where he was employed. He used to regale us with stories and the first time that I went on a train ride was with him to that town on a holiday when I must have been about six years old. He used to be fascinated by the engines and I distinctly remember going with him to see the engine while it was being filled with water at a junction before proceeding again to our destination.

As a grown up salesman, I had travelled many times in trains drawn by steam engines and distinctly remember being disappointed with the electric and / or diesel engines later.

I don’t know whether it was synchronicity or what, but I got an opportunity to go to Jamalpur on two occasions when I was 22 years old to write my prelims and the final examinations for my BA degree. I had to write the examinations there as I was appering as a private candidate in a distant education system of the Bhagalpur University as I was studying while working. The center where I had to write the examintaions was in Monghyr now known as Munger which did not have a railhead then though it does now. Jamalpur was a junction and the workshop and residential area of the Eastern Railways was located on the other side of the railway tracks from the town of Jamalpur. I stayed in a choultry and commuted to Monghyr by horse drawn carriages known as tangas.

I had to cross a footbridge over the railway lines to cross over from the town to reach the Railways colony to go to a Cooperative Mess run by some South Indians for food twice a day.

Apart from seeing a lot of steam locomotives during those two occasions, I also ran into some trouble once during a communal riot. A group of us students were returning from having had dinner at the mess over the bridge when a gang of rioters surrounded us and asked us for proof of our religion. It was a close shave and none of us were harmed but for a few minutes the situation was quite tense and it could have turned ugly because of my beard!

I passed both sets of exminations and in due course got my degree from the University which paved the way for my going to Business School and subsequent rise in corporate life.

Much later, in the late eighties I went to Jamalpur, Monghyr and Bhagalpur on a nostalgia trip and saw that the places were not the same as I remembered.

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