I still recall the days when train travel was a luxury. The railway platforms swarmed with people from every corner of the country. Trains coming in and going out of the platform.
The trains still do come to the same platforms .The stations still thronged with people. But, what I miss in that sprawling swarm is an unknown man, dressed in a red half sleeved shirt and a cloth-rolled cushion over his head.
Yes, the Porter.
I write this as a memoir of those days when a Porter was our flunky at the railroad terminal. Lifting up the load of our travel paraphernalia on every part of his body, right on his head to hanging them on his sturdy arms.
When I was a little chap, I used to admire his strength. The way he managed to jack up so much weight, with which even dad himself struggled. In veneration, I longed for such enormous amount of strength that he possessed, taking up all the weight and leading us through the hustle bustle of a typical Indian railway station.
I clearly recall the conversations and negotiations dad had with him to put off some dead weight off him. From “dada platform no.5 tak hee toh jana hein ” to ” jitna lena ho le lena bass pohoncha do “. I always had more inclination towards the guy in red. Never really wanted my dad to win over him. But alas! Dad always turned out to be a better negotiator.
Looking at him walk through the platforms, people always paved way for him to pass, it seemed as if they did so to honour him and the strength he possessed, I mused. To me he was the Hercules of the Locomotive Junction, walking through the masses and commuters making way for him like Moses did to the Jordan.
He led my family like a commander led a battalion. They marched right behind him,as close to him as much as possible, mostly with the fear rather than admiration, that he would disappear in this commuter traffic, if they let him distance from us.
He was ambidextrous, with the way he managed to carry the luggage into the compartments, through the narrow seating arrangement with utter briskness, which bewildered me.His rexine slippers told the tale of his endless toil. His cloth cushioned head gear, which he often used to wipe off his sweat by unwinding it, had worn out.
We shook hands with modernization leaving them alone. If inventions brought about convenience to some, the other side of it killed the livelihood of others. With the advent of the trolley-wheely bags, no sooner were we in need of his Herculean services. A curse of oblivion was cast upon him.
Even now when I move my eyes around every time I go to a railway station, I still search for him .I do catch a glimpse of sometimes him, but he no longer looks the same. All I see of him is a desperate soul hoping in vain for being honoured again. From Hercules he has been reduced to a midget.
— oori baba