Khurda Road Junction
Travelling back to college campus for start of a new semester is
not fun; not if one was attending a college in India, at least
not when Juggernaut was attending four decades ago. One has to
reckon with bad cafeteria food, poor living quarters and terrible
bathrooms in the hostel. End of a semester was a great relief,
beginning of a new semester signals more stressful time to come.
If they can only make learning more fun and less of a stressful
event, learning life skills really means something
travel from home to the campus town was a slow train journey that
takes 10 hours to travel around 250 miles, from one culture to a
totally different culture as if one is entering a different
country. As train travels through the route, new passengers get
in and some drop off. The new passengers 'profile change, they
speak different language and wear different garb. As the train
travels towards the destination, at each station it stops, the
snacks sold at the vendor stalls change from South Indian 'Idli'
to Oriyan 'Bora' and less coffee and more of 'chai' or tea.
casual conversation with fellow travelers may not occur because
of language barrier, unless one meets that speaks English.
Luckily for Juggernaut, he met an Anglo-Indian lady. She
introduced herself as Mrs. Victoria Thomas travelling to
Calcutta. A heavy set woman in her late fifties, she wore a short
flowery dress exposing her legs. Though a descendent of mixed
Indian and British ancestry, she has dark skin and looks more
Indian. Without her short hair and dress, she could be mistaken
for an Indian woman, unless she speaks out with her unique
accent, either British or Indian.
name Victoria brought back his memory of a statue of Queen
Victoria over-dressed in layers of garments looking fat placed on
a huge pedestal under a large canopy in a small square opposite
the Central Bank in his home town. The decades old statue perhaps
made from stone or bronze, hard to tell since layers of dust and
oily soot coated the statue over time. Only beggars and mentally
ill shared the canopy with the neglected statue.
far you were going?" asked Mrs. Thomas.
up from his thoughts of statue of Victoria, Juggernaut replied "I
am going to Bhubaneswar."
you from this area?"
am attending a university there,"
come, you have lot of universities in your state?"
do, but I want to experience living in a different
"That's good; so how things going so far?"
very good, the cafeteria food was very bad, so as my
is nothing like home cooking."
"Sure," "do you live in Calcutta?" asked Juggernaut.
live in Guntur," "My husband works in 'Golden Tobacco Company
there," said Mrs. Thomas removing a small gold colored metal
cigarette case from her purse.
Juggernaut never before saw a lady carrying a cigarette case and
so as the other travelers sitting around. While the fellow
travelers looking at her curiously, she opened the case, took one
and placed it in-between her lips and asked Juggernaut whether he
Juggernaut eagerly accepted one and realized it was 'Gold Flake',
an expensive brand marketed by 'Golden Tobacco Company.'
Thomas took a deep drag and exhaled the smoke in between her lips
slowly as if she wants to keep the smoke in her lung a little
attending agricultural college near Guntur, I once took a tour of
tobacco fields near the 'Golden Tobacco Company," Juggernaut
tried to make a connection.
you have plans for the future after getting your degree?" asked
Mrs. Thomas in a casual manner still inhaling and exhaling smoke
while the travelers around watching her without blinking. After
all, not often women smoke publicly, only in movies the bad women
characters smoke to show their villainous nature.
hoping to go abroad to pursue further in my field," Juggernaut
appeared to impress her.
"That's good, I applied some years ago to immigrate to England,"
"We the Anglo-Indians have a special arrangement with the British
Government to get special permit to settle in England, but the
process is taking a long time," Mrs. Thomas looked
the conversation with Mrs. Thomas and smoking cigarette helped to
break the boredom, Juggernaut noticed that the train was slowing
down and pulling into huge railway yard with endless tracks and
locomotive engines in slow motion pulling trains in different
directions. The railway station was Khurda Road Junction, a cross
roads for changing trains to go different places, a brightly lit
railway station with several platforms and train tracks that are
connected with over-bridge passes. The station was crowded with
passengers and porters in red uniform carrying baggage on their
head packed in layers one over the other.
Juggernaut, sinking feeling sets in on arriving at Khurda Road
Junction; it is only 25 miles to the final destination, a point
of no return for the next four months of misery from terrible
conditions at the hostel and hostility from some classmates.
Juggernaut got off the train to walk on the platform to relax his
strained muscles from sitting in the train. Here, the train crew
changes. Workers connect water hoses to re-fill the in-built
water tanks on top of the rail cars for travelers' use. The train
halts at the station for a good 30 minutes to complete the
transfers. Meanwhile the passengers get-off the train to the
platform to walk around and make purchases from the vendors
hawking loudly refreshments, news papers and other sundry items.
Mrs. Thomas was still smoking cigarette sitting next to the
window and looking outwards towards the platform. The train guard
whistled loud and waived a green flag to signal the engine driver
to start, Juggernaut got into the train, as the train started
slowly pulling out of Khurda Road Junction. After four months, he
will be travelling through Khurda Road Junction again, but on way
back home, a jolly good feeling. Somehow the name Khurda Road
Junction bring back memories of melancholy.