Train, station and Wonder of Asia


It was last Poya Day that I decided to take the Mannar train to wherever I was going to for the long weekend. The Fort Railway station was a mess as usual. The person at the inquiry counter was not very helpful because he was busy with his mobile phone. He must have been chatting with someone near and dear to him. So, why bother to help me? Then I joined the queue to buy a Class II ticket. (After all we are second class citizens in our own country!) It was a winding queue and after a long wait I bought my ticket and entered the crowded and filthy main railway station of Sri Lanka.

The place was full of foreign tourists wearing puzzled looks. ‘Welcome to Sri Lanka!’ I muttered to myself. There was no canteen to pop in for a snack and someone said it had been closed or sealed for some reason. There was someone selling unhygienic fish buns, egg rolls and water. I am sure the water for sale came from some Miracle Fountain in Sri Lanka.

I walked pushed and shoved through the crowd. Waiting rooms and toilets were filthy and stinking. Another wonder! There were no litter bins. Only consolation I had was that I met some interesting people including a cop. Some of them recognised me and spoke about my programme Pethikada on Sirasa. They all had one request: expose the bloody politicians!

Train to Mannar came 10 minutes late to platform 7 and we all had to wage a major battle to get in. The best place for ruby players to train was the Fort Railway Station, I thought to myself while exchanging not so pleasant words with some people including two girls who tried to block their seats having placed their bag through the window whilst I sat on one of those seats. However, both girls got their seats and continued to stare at me throughout the train journey. They did not share their chocolates or biscuits with me and I did not offer my water to them; we were even steven. However, I admired their beautiful eyes without being noticed thanks to my thick glasses.

Children including infants were getting crushed, pregnant women and elderly people were going through hell. It looks as if a sardine factor had taken over Sri Lankan Railways. We were getting pushed and crushed and to add to our woes some smartly dressed medical students were trying to collect money from the poor commuters to build a hospital somewhere. The need of the hour was some oxygen for commuters!

I knew I had sinned when a group of men and women started to belt out songs. It was a terrible experience with croaky voices grating on my nerves. Then I met a doc who had edited The Island health pages and won an award. He kept standing having boarded the train at Veyangoda. Dr. Prasanna Cooray said to me: "I bought a Class Two ticket and thinking that I would have a seat." Sadly, the good doc had not realised he was another second class citizen in his own country just like yours truly.

I thought I was lucky to have a doctor as fellow traveler on a risky train ride. I reached the destination in one piece. I heard my doctor friend heave a sigh of relief. It was freedom at last and an otherwise repulsive tuk-tuk looking for a fare looked a godsend.

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