Thursday, April 14, 2011
the end of the line
if you board the 08788 passenger train at raipur, it will take you slowly, over three and a half hours, to dalli rajhara - a distance of 126 km. the train meanders past durg through the dry hot countryside, never stopping long at any one place, but not leaving out any station either. risama, gundardehi, balod, kusumkasa - these are stations i have not glimpsed before.
at bhilai a large group of young men gets on with equipment which they stack carefully at one end of the coach. they wear sky-blue T-shirts with "Bhilai Giants" embroidered on the pocket. with easy camaraderie, they share cucumbers, bottles of water, and their earphones to listen to songs on their mobiles. they are headed to dalli for a series of cricket matches this week.
i sit up straight, not wanting my kurta to stick to my back in the sweltering heat. twice i get down to fill my water bottle at the station - lukewarm water from a tap on the platform, but it tastes good. my eyes and throat dry up every so often, and i can feel grit on my face. the glare of the sun hurts my eyes, and i squint down at the book i am reading, though i would prefer to look out of the window.
we pass once an area that has many railway wagons piled high with iron ore. there are low hills beyond, and we have passed the station before i could see what it was. as we pass through this place, the wind blows in reddish dust, instead of the usual grey dust during the rest of the journey.
at 1 pm on a hot april afternoon, we pull into dalli rajhara, after passing through miles of hills of iron ore, that are being mined to feed the steel plant at bhilai. dalli is too small to be marked on most maps. this is the end of the railway line on this route.