What the Harvard dons didn’t learn from Lalu

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: On Octobner 28, 2007, the Chamundi Express from Mysore towards Bangalore left, like any other day, at 6:45 am, give or take a few minutes.

Being a Sunday, it was less crowded than usual, the passengers comprising mostly the middle-aged and elderly, and a small group of traders discussing the zooming Sensex.

After some time, a sense of ennui and sleepiness took over the train and shut out the vendors’ shouts of coffee and tea.

Just before the train reached Mandya, there was some commotion from passengers, two bogies away. Soon, the ticket collector came into our compartment enquiring whether there was a doctor on the train to attend to a passenger who had become unconscious.

As the train steamed into Mandya, some passengers informed the railway police who in turn asked the engine driver to hold the train. By that time, however, the whistle had been blown from the guard, and the driver started the train informing the police that Maddur was only 10 minutes away.

Meanwhile some of us rushed to the aid of the patient but we could not find his pulse. He had collapsed to the side from his sitting position. The man was in the fifties, probably going to work protected with a jerkin over a full sleeves shirt.

When all efforts to wake him up including sprinkling water failed, we started administering Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) by blowing in to his mouth after closing his nostrils. Even repeated, frantic efforts of CPR had no effect on him.

A stitch mark from the middle of his chest down suggested he might have undergone surgery in that region. Or maybe not.
Somebody fished out a tablet strip from his pocket and, as advised by a doctor who was giving instructions on the mobile, we pushed the medicine too.

Somebody took out a small book from his pocket with telephone numbers.

The 12-minute journey seemed to be the longest ever I had undertaken, and it ended as the train finally rolled in to Maddur.

People lifted the man and carried him to the stone bench at the station. Somebody carried his bag along. Even the most basic medical facilities was not available at Maddur Station, an important junction between Bangalore and Mysore, and the hometown, lest we forget, of the high priest of “hi-tech”, former chief minister S.M. Krishna.

Railway Minister Lalu Yadav never tires of lecturing all over the world how he was instrumental in turning around Indian railways that netted over Rs. 20,000 crore. And folks at Harvard and the IIMs can’t seem to tire of his efforts.

It took another 10 minutes to get a stretcher—a stinking dirty leather sheet with two wooden handles at either end.

Amidst the tearing hurry needed to save a life, life was proceeding at snail’s pace.

Finally, the man was carried over the rail bridge and our train left for Bangalore with passengers angry, silent and crying.

By that time the identity of the passenger was established.

He was a senior Section Engineer (Electrical) working at Railway Workshop in Mysore!

For one who had probably spent most of his working life on a train, the train did not stop for him when it mattered most. The TC felt terrible as the train was not stopped by his colleague and a crucial 10 minutes was lost.

We were left with the thought ‘what might have been’.

As we reached Chennapatna, the TC phoned Maddur and found out the rail passenger whom we had all accompanied from Mysore was brought there ‘dead on arrival’.

We all reached Bangalore without our co-passenger for whom the Final Station had come at Maddur itself.


The original headline for this piece was ‘Lalu Yadav can go fuck himself with all his crores’, which accounts for some of the comments.