When a new member arrives, there is an induction party. He gives sweets to all the members of the group
For commuters of the S-7 compartment of Jayanti Janatha Express (Kanyakumari-Mumbai), the good old days will soon become a sweet memory if the train continues to run late almost every day.
Many of the commuters, who work in Kollam, take this train which is supposed to depart from Thiruvananthapuram Central at 7.45 a.m.
“However, now most of the commuters are forced to depend on other modes of transport as it is almost impossible to reach the office on time if one travels in this train,” says a commuter as he impatiently waits for the train to arrive from Nagercovil.
A little later the train chugs into platform 2 at Thiruvananthapuram Central and members of the S-7 Association, an informal group of commuters, clamber aboard the Jayanti Janata Express.
As the train gathers momentum, a woman starts distributing sweets. “Her marriage anniversary,” says Balachandra Kini, an accounts executive of Hycount Plastics and Chemicals, Kollam, who has been travelling on this train for the last 19 years.
“This is indeed a home away from home,” beams N.S. Hema, teacher, Mother India International School, Attingal, busy distributing the sweets.
“I am grateful to the lady who introduced me to this compartment.” When members get transferred from Kollam, they introduce a new commuter, which is a tacit rule of the association.
“Laughter, lots of treats and parties, banter, discussions and arguments,” explains Kini discussing the USP of this informal group. What is the cohesive force that bonds this disparate crowd in S-7? “We just can’t put our finger on any one reason,” says A. Hari, Karoor Vyshya Bank. “The association was here even before I became a member,” he says.
When a new member arrives, there is an induction party. He gives sweets to all the members of the group to get himself baptised as a member of the group. “We don’t compel anyone,” points out Hari referring to those `busy’ passengers who prefer to be left alone.
Balachandra Kini could remember a period when the group was dominated by LIC officers. “Then there was a period of bank officers. After that came the `era’ of teachers.”
Kini has always been an active participant in the heated discussions inside the rattling train. “The topic changes. The mutual respect and care for fellow travellers have always remained the same,” points out Kini.
So what are their activities? “We have got more than 35 members in the group,” says H. Jayashankar, LIC assistant, Kayamkulam branch.
“There is a good rapport among our families also. We brought out a directory last year that provides the detailed biodata of all the members, including their blood group.” The members of the group are always on the lookout for an excuse to throw a party in the compartment.
“And we never leave out strangers when distributing sweets and payasam during occasions like Onam, Christmas and New Year.”
Jayashankar recalls an occasion when they distributed Xeroxed copies of the speech of the President APJ Abdul Kalam among the passengers. “We wanted to inspire them,” he says.
The association was at the forefront of the agitations against a change in the schedule that was announced by the Railways.
“Although we were successful in getting back our train, the damage has been done,” rues Jayashankar.
The Jayanti Janata, which was rescheduled to arrive at the Central station at 7.45 a.m., is usually late, says Jayashankar.
“We have started missing many faces,” says Balachandra Kini. The exodus has begun. And it has hit life in the S7 compartment. But the journey continues.
Source: The Hindu