Until Friday night, Bijan Sonowal could think of nothing much other than his uncle Niranjan's kidney ailment and their upcoming journey to Vellore for his treatment.
On Saturday morning, some of that anxiety lifted for Bijan, a resident of Silapathar of upper Assam's Dhemaji district. When he and other members of his farming family boarded the train for Vellore at Dibrugarh, they learnt they were going to be part of a historic journey.
They were passengers on the inaugural run of the Vivek Express, a new weekly train that now boasts the longest rail route in the country – 4,286 km all the way from Dibrugarh in upper Assam, to Kanyakumari at the southern tip of Tamil Nadu, that will be covered in 82.30 hours.
“We are really happy and proud to learn that we are travelling on the longest rail route of the country on the very first day,” Bijan told The Hindu after the train crossed New Tinsukia junction, its first stop. “I have kept aside my worries about the treatment of my uncle for a while to enjoy every bit of the journey because it is going to be a memorable one for me.”
The family will get down at Katpadi junction in Tamil Nadu from where the hospital in Vellore city is a drive of 20-25 minutes.
Union Minister of Development of North Eastern Region Paban Singh Ghatowar flagged off the train at Dibrugarh station in the presence of Assam Revenue Minister Prithibi Majhi and General Manager of North East Frontier Railway Keshav Chandra.
This train left in the morning, but the regular weekly service, which will begin on November 26, will leave at 11.45 p.m. every Saturday, reaching its destination at 10.25 a.m. on Wednesday.
Before this, the Himsagar Express running between Jammu Tawi and Kanyakumari had the longest run, covering 3,715 km.
Hundreds of Malayalee families living in Assam and other Northeastern states are equally excited about the new weekly train.
Members of the Kerala Samajam of Dimapur are planning to give a befitting welcome to the train when it arrives at Dimapur station on November 27, the day after the regular service begins.
“It is a long cherished dream of Malayalee people living in Dimapur and beyond to board a direct train. It will be really beneficial for the passengers from the entire region,” said Abraham Kuriakose, member of Kerala Samajam, Dimapur.
Mr Abraham said that Kerala Samajam, Dimapur, has about 300 Malayalee families registered with it and for a long time they had been fighting for introduction of direct train from Dimapur.