E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Praveen Kumar III of South Western Railway was gazing at the track between Srirangapatna and Naguvanahalli.
As he was staring at the track, his mind went back to circa 2008-2010.
His great-grandfather Praveen Kumar, who was entrusted with the task of expediting the task of doubling the Bangalore-Mysore track project had one day, had literally stumbled into a monument from the period of Tipu Sultan in Srirangapatna.
Since monuments are sensitive matters, it was referred to the archaeological department to seek its concurrence before shifting it elsewhere.
Files in the archaeology department are never in a hurry and appear to wobble once in a decade in Karnataka. The approval for shifting the monument came on the same day when Praveen Kumar was due to retire from service. But the various agencies involved in shifting the monument—the public works department, the wakf board, railways, muzrai department, temple authorities—could not arrive at a mutually convenient date for their meeting.
Finally when they met, the Muslim board objected to shifting the monument during Ramzan; the temple authorities would not lift a finger during Shravanamasa. The archaeology department was yet to decide whether to classify the monument as a heritage piece or just a luggage. The PWD was busy building flyovers from Bangalore to Madras and Hyderabad on which cars could zoom in 2 hours and 3 hours to those cities respectively, to even bother.
So the project became comatose again.
When Kumaraswamy II became the chief minister of Karnataka, he too started doing village stays like his father. Once while eating ragi mudde marinated in Sula wine, his eyes fell on a paper beneath the mudde. The mudde would not go in as he found his affectionate father’s beautiful signature authorising the work between Bangalore and Ramanagaram.
HDK II left the dinner unfinished and began enquiring about the status of the project without even losing time to wash his hands.
He dashed off messages to railway minister and chairman of the railway board. Quick came their response. They appointed a young railway officer, Praveen Kumar II to handle this prestigious project. Praveen Kumar II flew in directly to Sriranagapatna from Delhi in his helicopter.
The Bangalore- Mysore project thus came out of ICU of railway hospital and started galloping like a “Flying Ranee”. Everybody hoped it would be completed by 2030.
But good things, as they say, do not last long, at least not in Karnataka.
No sooner had PK II solved the monument problem, they came across a foundation stone bang in the middle of the proposed track. Former and farmer prime minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, had come all the way to to lay it. A foundation stone with a pickaxe attached to it was found by the gang of workers.
After prostrating before the new sacred heritage structure, Kumaraswamy II decided not to shift the same and asked the engineers to find a solution.
The engineers after working for 5 years found they could encircle the heritage assembly with a poly carbon glass and take the track 20 ft. below the glass without touching it.
By the time the zilla panchayat and gram panchayats and the PWD, after quarterly interdepartmental notes, agreed to do the job, Yediyurappa III had taken over from Kumaraswamy II, who quickly reversed the earlier decision. He now wanted the tracks to go 20 feet above the foundation stone and refused to treat it as a heritage piece. He got it reclassified it as just a luggage.
Yediyurappa III like his grandfather was also a man in a furious hurry. He called Delhi to send an official to complete the project. Delhi beamed an officer who landed at the site in fifteen minutes through a jet propulsion robot much like ‘Scotty’. As luck or ill luck would have it, it was Praveen Kumar III who landed at Naguvanahalli!
Thus, Praveen Kumar III found himself wondering whether the project would ever reach Mysore at all…
Finally, after several eras, if not eons, the double track project was completed and inaugurated by Rahul Nehru Gandhi III in 2080.
All the tahasildars, zilla panchayat and gram panchayat employees flew in their own helicopters powered by Indo-US nuclear fuel to attend the inauguration.
Since railways had stopped running trains from 2060, as a mark of respect, it was decided to run a special train once to mark the centenary of the fast track project. The nearly 200-year-old coal-based steam engine, was brought out of its shed to pull the Mysore-Bangalore Priyanka Express for the first and last time on the newly built track.