A Special Railway Ticket
Guest author Dr. Sil shares his memorable journey of visiting Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya in Chitrakoot, Madhya Pradesh

On 1st of July, we celebrated National Doctors’ day in India. I received many wishes and greetings from our friends since morning. Before deciding on a topic to write for this blog post, I opened the bag that contains many souvenirs. There was a railway ticket that still remains very special for me. 

It was in the year 2003 when I was travelling from Kolkata to Chitrakoot in Madhya Pradesh. I really did not have any idea about the place and how to get there. The General Secretary of our organisation, Swami Biswanathananda, a senior monk joined me in this maiden trip to Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya, a renowned eye hospital in central India. In the month of August, on a rainy day, we started from Kolkata by Air Sahara. The ATR aircraft landed in Allahabad around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. We had a plan to hire a car to travel another 135 kilometers by road to reach Chitrakoot. 

A Deviation in the Journey

We came out of the small airport terminal and started looking for a vehicle. There were very few Ambassador cars and one Maruti car parked on the road. Nobody agreed to take us to Chitrakoot, as robbery was very common in that area during that time. One cab driver suggested that we should take the train from the main station to reach Chitrakoot. We were left with no other choice. Knowing the reality, we requested him to take us to Allahabad junction.

It was the auspicious day of Janmashtami and the railway platforms were heavily crowded with pilgrims who must have taken a holy dip in the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna. I still remember that the Bundelkhand Express arrived at platform number nine where I could not find any place to buy even a bottle of drinking water. Somehow, we managed to get a place to sit in a crowded compartment and requested our co-passengers to tell us when Chitrakoot would be near. We got full assurance from all of them; they were quite friendly people and asked us to relax. We were still anxious because we were new travelers on that route. I tried to identify the name of the railway stations wherever the train was halting, but there was a massive power cut on that day and I could not read any letter at all in the darkness. The only station that could be identified was Manikpur Junction. I knew that Manikpur is not far from Chitrakoot. We got ready for our destination and reminded our co-passengers once again to tell us where we should get down. They were deeply immersed in gossiping and the topic was the episode of Lord Krishna saving Draupadi when she was insulted by the Kauravas in The Mahabharata. Again, we were reassured by them. After a long time, I got restless and I found that we had already crossed Chitrakoot. The train stopped at a place, I got down from the compartment to confirm that it was really a railway station. We alighted at a place called Badausa.

Relief in Sight

We got lost in the middle of the night in the Chambal valley which is known for dacoits. We were not scared, but we were very hungry and thirsty. We entered the Station Master’s room which was totally dark. The gentleman was receiving phone calls and writing something by lighting a torch. We told him about the deviation in our journey and requested him to give us some water to drink. The Station Master was sympathetic and he assured us that there would be a train available to return to Chitrakoot in an hour. He asked another gentleman to bring some water for us. An iron bucket containing cold water came for us. We did not bother to know the source of it. At first, we sprinkled water on our faces and then drank it till we felt that it was enough. Drinking water could sometimes be so memorable! The gentleman who brought water for us showed some place to sit. It was a trolley for carrying heavy items.  I was worried about Swamiji because he had not taken any food in the aircraft. However, he was not bothered about his hunger.

Jain Saab’s Friend

A young man was sitting next to us. He started talking to me and I could make out that he was a newly appointed employee in the railways. He also wanted to know about us and we responded to his questions. He was very happy to know that we shall be visiting the famous Eye Hospital at Jankikund, Chitrakoot. He asked me, “Do you know Dr. Jain Saab? He is the main doctor there. I am grateful to him for restoring vision in my mother’s eye. He had done cataract surgery for my mother.” I responded, “Yes, I know him very well and going to visit his hospital.” The young man seemed very happy and my identity to him changed from a stranger to “Jain Saab’s friend”. Soon there was an announcement that the train to Allahabad is arriving on the other platform. We had to walk a bit and cross the railway track to reach the other side. Our young friend did not allow us to carry our bags. He loved helping the friend of a doctor whom he respects a lot. The train halted at the station and he took our luggage inside the compartment and arranged two seats for us. No word was enough to thank the youngster. We forgot all our discomfort and constantly admired his compassion. 

The train took an hour to reach Chitrakoot around 2 am. The power supply had come back by that time and we found out a place near the railway station to stretch for few hours till sunrise. Swamiji said, “Did you see how much respect a doctor can earn from common people through his service? God wanted us to experience this, that is why we had missed the station initially.” We reached SNC very early in the morning by an auto-rickshaw giving much relief to our hosts who were very much worried about us.

I preserved the railway ticket from Badausa to Chitrakoot. Even today, it brings back fresh memories of that enriching journey and a simple ticket narrates so many things. 

About the Author: Dr. Asim Sil has served for over 24 years as the medical director of Vivekananda Mission Ashram Netra Niramay Niketan(VMANNN), a hospital system operating in rural West Bengal.Under his stewardship, VMANNN now serves as a mentor to eye hospitals in India and Bangladesh.