My wife, my daughter have not returned!!
It was the winters of 2005. After a sumptuous lunch, a quick afternoon nap followed. But the nap was snapped before it could turn sweet. The Railway had phone rung as it usually does when you are in the midst of something meaningful. My controller on the other side informed that there had been a side collision between a passenger train (620 Dn which runs from Barkakana to Barawadih to Chopan to Allahabad) and a coal loaded Freight train (Up Lahra-Mohabbat named after the thermal power to which it was destined to deliver coal) at Barwadih and that there may be some casualties.
The Accident Relief Train was ordered and the divisional team departed in full strength for the site. The team from Head Quarter and from Railway Board which included members of Traffic and Mechanical also pushed off. One notable visitor was Arjun Munda, the then CM of Jharkhand. As we reached the site after 5-6 hours, the toll had risen to 21 deaths. The restoration team included three relief trains, two medical relief trains, three 140T capacity cranes and a couple of hundreds of people working round the clock for nearly 3 days (read 70 hours). There were 37 loaded wagons which had got derailed and 5 coaches with people packed like sardines, had got fully damaged.
After the restoration had been complete and all the officers were sitting, sipping chai contemplating about the enormity of the devastation, a middle aged man approached us. His stoic face was further amplified by the dryness in eyes and an apparent lack of sleep. He came right up to my DRM and said, “Huzoor, my wife and my daughter had boarded the train for Daltongunj and both have not returned home. It has been three days now and I have found the dead body of my daughter but my wife is still untraceable.”
My DRM shrugged his shoulders, confirmed it from one of his officers and said that all dead bodies have been recovered and that all such data have been verified. Somebody quipped from behind that it might be propaganda towards getting the ex-gratia payments. One of the officer explained him about how the data was calculated, confirmed and how chances about it being erroneous were minimal. The man was dazed. He had come dazed because of the death of his daughter and was returning dazed at not being able to confirm the death of his wife.
As he trudged back, defeated, I could hear him murmur. He was mumbling repeatedly under his breath, ‘..they have not returned..”.
Our chai had finished and so had our work at Barwadih. The special train was preparing to push off to Dhanbad. We lumbered up to our coaches, and then unexpectedly my peon came with this message that a body was just identified buried amidst the scrape of mutilated wagon bodies and heaps of coal. I could not believe it and ran to the place. Only the leg jutted out of the remains (see pic). But intrinsically, I was very clear in my mind, that this was his wife. His laments were no propaganda, his expressionless face was no deceit and his murmur was no treachery.
I wondered, now, whether both his wife and his daughter had finally returned to him.