Rajasthanis danced, joked, greeted passengers, distributed sweets and did much more to bring in the festive mood
For more than an hour, Platform I at the Coimbatore Junction appeared out of place. It was as though it did not belong to this part of the country. There were marigold flowers, vermilion forehead pastes, laddus, pyjama, kurta and, of course, paggar (traditional headgear). There was also music, played from shenai-like wind instruments.
The occasion was the flagging of the Coimbatore – Bikaner Express (Train No. 22476), the city’s first direct train link to Rajasthan. And Coimbatore-based members of the Rajasthani community made full use of the occasion to celebrate.
They performed puja, garlanded the engine and also Member of Parliament from Jalore, Rajasthan, Devji M. Patel, who had arrived in the city for the very purpose of flagging off the train. Rajasthanis danced, joked, greeted passengers, distributed sweets and did much more to bring in the festive mood.
B.S. Chauhan, a city-based metal trader, said that the train had eased to a great extent his travel home. People like him had to either disembark at Mumbai or Ahmedabad junctions, wait for a connecting train to Rajasthan and then proceed home. All that will be a thing of the past, he says.
He had been here for close to 25 years and had never felt happy. “It is like home has come closer.”
The train, many passengers said, reduced the travel time by as much as 13 hours. P.R. Natarajan, MP, and Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam member G.K. Nagaraj, people who are also members of the Coimbatore railway struggle committee, said that the train travelled along the western coast, through Madgaon, to Rajasthan.
Navaram Choudhary, another passenger, said that the train would be make travel home easier for women and children as they would be spared of the trouble of changing trains.
Ghisulal Hingar, president, Rajasthani Sangh, said that the 20,000-odd Rajasthanis in Coimbatore would stand the benefit as the train covers most of Rajasthan – Abu Road, Falna, Marwar Junction, Pali Marwar, Luni, Jodhpur, Merta Road, Nokha and finally, Bikaner.
He said that train would increase the inflow of tourist, labourers and businessmen from Rajasthan and Gujarat to Coimbatore and its neighbourhood. And also help Rajasthani men from Coimbatore find brides in Rajasthan. “Thus far girls’ families were hesitant because of the distance, which, with the introduction, appears to have shrunk.”
Mr. Natarajan said that the next step was to increase the train’s frequency. It was at present a weekly train. It would be better if it was a biweekly. He promised to raise the issue in the winter session of Parliament.