When I responded to Cheerful Monk’s lament about the inability of Amtrak to give some indication of the ETA of their delayed train journey, without even thinking about it I used a Proper Noun which was, at least for my generation, a generic term – Bradshaw. I quote – “Here, by and large, our trains run on time and since someone or the other will be carrying a Bradshaw, or the conductor will have information on the status from station to station.”
My earliest memory of a Bradshaw goes back to my boyhood when my uncle used to visit Chennai, then called Madras, where we lived then, to attend to Senate Meetings in the Madras University. He used to come and go back to the small town from which he came by train and would share his experiences with us about the journey, and also show us the Bradshaw to explain how he kept track whether the train would be on time or not.
Subsequenlty, when all grown up and I was a travelling salesman, the Bradshaw regularly bought from Higginbothoms railway book stalls was a constant companion. Higginbotham’s played a very important role in my life by not only being the source for Bradshaws, but also for many novels and non fiction books that I regularly bought to keep myself entertained during long train journeys and lonely hotel nights during times when there was no Television or radios in hotel rooms or railway retiring and / or waiting rooms.
Cheerful Monk’s post simply brought back those memories and I am amazed that the Indian Railway Time Table is still called Indian Bradshaw and Higginbotham’s is still going strong.
Two more names from our colonial heitage!