Sunday 26 May 2013

The ghost who spooked trains

The Railways are the life line of India. Railway lines crisscrosses the length and breadth of our country and several lakhs people are employed in  this behemoth.
They play a crucial role in the economy of the country. It is one of the world's largest railway networks comprising 115,000 km (71,000 miles) of track over a route of 65,000 km (40,000 miles) with 7,510 stations.
As of December 2012, Indian Railways had transported over 25 million passengers daily (over 9 billion annually). In 2011, the railways ferried over 8,900 million passengers annually or more than 24 million passengers daily and 2.8 million tons of freight daily.
Naturally, there are many legends and myths about the Railways. There have been legion number of stories about marriages being brokered in railway compartments, friendships being forged, children being born, trains coming late by a day or more, passengers travelling on roof tops and many more similar stories.
However, there is nothing to beat this story and even by Indian Railway standards it is a classic act, hard to beat, harder to believe and even harder to digest.
This story is about a railway station. Yes, a railway station which was supposedly so haunted that it remained closed for decades and no trains stopped by. The trains whizzed past the desolate station and some fearful and superstitious passengers even downed shutters of the windows to avoid looking at the haunted station.
This is the story of the Begunkodor railway station. Located in Puralia district of West Bengal, the haunted station is 46 kilometres away from the town of Purulia.
Unbelievably, the railway station at Begunkodor remained closed for 42 years. The reason was that the station was believed to be haunted by as spook and no employee was willing to serve or take a posting at the station.  The station remained only in name from 1962 to 2009.
Locals claim that a railway employee died after he witnessed a female apparition in the station in 1967. Soon, this tale spread and railway employees initially took leave and then sought transfers. None were willing to work at the station and within a few weeks, the station became deserted. Soon, no trains stopped and the station stopped receiving trains.
In no time, stories about the female ghost gained credence. The phantom woman would sometimes dance on the platform and on occasion take a walk along the tracks. The railway employees feared that she would come back to life and they expressed no desire to work at the station.
As the legend of the white saree apparition grew, the station fell deeper and deeper into disuse and soon no locals gathered courage to visit the station.
The first ray of hope of opening the station came when Mamta Banerjee was the Railway Minister. When she was told about the haunted station, she curtly remarked that she did not believe in ghosts. “It is all manmade”, she declared and ordered the Railways to take steps to reopen the now defunct station. This was in 2009.
Meanwhile, Basudeb Acharya, former chairman of the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Railways claimed that the ghost story was cooked up by railway staff  to avoid their posting at a remote location.
The railway station was reopened on September 3, 2009 when the Ranchi-Hatia Express stopped at Begunkodor, the first train to do so, in 42 years.
Begunkodor is 260 kilometres or 161 miles from Kolkata. The reopening was a red letter day for the locals who danced and sang with joy. Hundreds turned up to watch the first train in more than four decades pull to a slow and grinding stop at the station.  
However, the fear of the ghosts still persists. Even two years after the re- opening of the Begunkodor station, Dalu Mahato, a private ticket- selling agent, is the sole worker there. He is given a commission for each ticket he sells. Mahato too makes it point to leave when the sun is still shining. You can rarely find him after 6 p.m.
For passengers, they are still greeted with empty ticket counters, no station master, ticket checker or any other employee. You see, the ghost still instills fear and such is its tentacles that people rarely dare to go to the station on their own.

No comments:

Post a Comment