Drama in real life: A race against time through rough terrain to catch up with a train and reunite a lost girl child with her parents.
We had gone to see off my sister-in-law at Jammu Tawi Station. She had come to be with us since Veena, my wife, was in her final trimester and was returning to Delhi.
The year 1977, time 9:30 pm.
As the train pulled off the Platform, we noticed a small girl about 3-4 years , crying loudly and running towards the departed train. Realising the child has been left behind, I picked her up and ran to the Station Master.
He was helpless. “You can go to the Police post and deposit her there,” he said.
Veena shouted, “No way! She is a girl child.”
There was no reaction time to think or discuss. We followed our intuition.
I told the Station Master to alert the intervening stations. We will drive the girl all the way to Pathankot, where the train had a 45 mins stop and we will attempt the en route stations to catch up with her family.
We rushed to my old and faithful Fiat. As we sped off on the National Highway 1-A, I drove recklessly on the mission.
The next station was Vijaypur and we saw the train, while still on the highway, chugging off. We were too late. We didn’t turn in, and just pressed on towards the Hiranagar Station that would come up.
This time we were lucky. The train was waiting and we turned in towards the station, which was about a kilometre inside from the main road.
But as luck would have it, we missed it by a whisker. The train chugged off just as we reached the platform. It was becoming an impossible task.
But luckily an alerted Railway employee met us at the porch. He had been expecting us and he informed that the Station Master had detained the train for 2 minutes.
“Catch the train at Kathua,” he suggested. “It has a longer stop. The SM can detain it for 2 mins more.”
“Alert Kathua,” I shouted and zipped off to the highway with a change of destination and plan.
Meanwhile, the girl was wailing in Veena’s lap. She stopped after half hour, tired. All she mustered to reveal was that her name was Titli and she lived in Delhi. The names of her parents were ‘Papa’ and ‘Amma’ and there was no address.
Out of fatigue she fell asleep, hugging Veena at the shoulders.
The road was rough, the terrain hilly. I had to speed as time was short and the journey ahead, far too long yet.
I noticed Veena’s discomfort but the brave lady didn’t complain. We were on a mission.
En route we both discussed if in case we were unable to connect her to the rightful parents, then what?
“We will adopt her,” Veena’s immediate reply was so reassuring.
We hit Kathua finally on the highway and turned in towards the station, about 3 kms inside.
An alerted staff met us at the staircase, way below the platform level. I rushed after the Railway employee, with Titli in my arms, instructing Veena to climb slowly. The Station Master was waiting for us and guided me to the coach. He had asked the father to disembark.
Titli recognised him and as her mother called out ‘Titli!’ from inside the coach, the child responded with a squeal of delight.
Meanwhile, Veena arrived. All we learnt from the father is that they had 8 children (“Prabhu ki kripa”). Titli had been left behind accidentally at the station and they had realized their folly 20 minutes into journey.
Meanwhile the Station Master, a polite man, apologised and said he must flag off the train. The little girl united with her family was a sigh of relief for both of us.
The Station Master offered all courtesies and ‘Thank You’s and offered us tea in his office. He wanted to know our names and address. We avoided that and requested him to help us with some fuel for the return.
He was more than happy to help and woke up the owner of a nearby petrol pump. He himself escorted us to the pump on his scooter and we followed him in our car.
Aware of what had happened, the owner refused to accept money, saying this was the least he could. The Station Master pleaded us with folded hands, to accept the refill. We eventually paid, bid goodbye to both and drove back home to Jammu.
We reached home well after midnight much to the relief of our worried daughter and our dog. We were tired but happy that Titli had been reunited with her family.
PS: The above is just one true chapter from our lives together.
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