A Mukherjee World View


Jog Falls

By Anamika Mukherjee

The train is late in leaving, and considering it was to leave at 11 pm, it is already quite a late train. It eventually leaves sometime after 11.30, by which time I have retired to my upper bunk and am already fast asleep. At least I have a bunk to retire to. Other travellers, in S5 and S6 have not been so lucky. Though the 'S” in the coach number signifies a sleeper coach, an announcer on the railway station loudspeaker has proclaimed that S5 and S6 have been arbitrarily designated chair car coaches (not in quite the same words) and that the inconvenience caused to passengers is not only regretted, but deeply regretted.

Well, fortune favours the brave, so they say, so, since fortune has favoured us, perhaps we were brave? Not that I could see anything very brave in our current endeavour. It's not as if Amit, Yogish and I were setting out to climb Everest or anything like that, we were merely leaving on an overnight trip to Jog Falls. (For those who don't know, that's pronounced Joge as in jolt, not Jog as in fog.)

The train from Bangalore deposited the three of us, sleepy-eyed, in Shimoga. From here it was a 103-km journey by bus to the falls. But we had been told of a toy train running from Shimoga to Jog, so we made enquiries at the station. Even at 5 in the morning, there was someone on duty to tell us that, yes, there was a toy train, it would leave at 6 and that we should walk right to the end of the platform, take a right and board the bus-like thing standing there. There was another someone behind a counter to sell us tickets (Rs 20 per head) and offer some advice in the bargain. The train would go to Talgubba (or Talguppa – spelt either way in English) about 15 km from Jog and from there we would still have to endure a short bus ride to get to the falls.

Not that the toy train was very different from a bus. It looked like a bus, it had the engine of a bus and it seated about as many as a bus. There were two coaches, one attached to the engine and the second attached to the first. At 5.15 in the morning, those intending to travel by the train later were pretending that a free overnight dormitory stay was included in the price of the ticket and were stretched out across the seats, blissfully asleep. They regarded us rather balefully for disturbing their slumbers a good 45 minutes too soon and grudgingly made space for us to sit.

Though it looked like a bus, the toy train soon showed us that it moved just like a train, with all the accompanying rattling, shaking and clanking. It had a track all to itself (being a meter-gauge train, no other trains used its track) which soon led the way through paddy fields and wooded countryside. The train stopped every few minutes, usually immediately after a level crossing, to pick up passengers. I was almost surprised that this strange contraption commanded a level crossing to itself and was not, instead, made to stop at traffic lights and give way to traffic on its right!

Today also seemed to be payday, so every so often the train would stop in the middle of nowhere to pay a lone gangman, not to mention drawing quite a crowd at each station, all waiting to be paid. At some stations, you could see people materialising out of nowhere and come running to the train, take their cash and dematerialise with a smile on their faces.

The Guard of the train, who was in our coach (the second coach) was quite eager to make conversation. On the way out as well as the way back in the evening, he held forth on photography, philosophy, theology, economics, the railways and sundry other subjects of general interest. Yogish shouldered the conversational burden on our part, while Amit and I dozed.

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Copyright 2008 Amit and Anamika Mukherjee. All rights reserved.