I read with interest the article, “Nightmare in Ariyalur, a brave tale from 1956” (Open Page, March 2), Ms. Joyce Philomena Vernem’s account of her terrible railway journey in 1956.
I was a typist in the Railway Madras District office at the time. As news of the accident reached us, I was deputed to the Egmore railway station on special duty to type out the list of the deceased and injured received from the accident spot and to then use it to help kith and kin who approached us for information. It was a pathetic and heart-rending job. How could you tell a loved one that his or her wife, husband, parent or child was injured? If someone was found to have died — as given in the list — how could we break the news to relatives or friends? We thought about it and devised a method by which we would softly and lovingly counsel them and tell them that we could arrange for railway passes for them to travel to the spot along with a companion. I am now 82 and live in Tirunelveli with my children, but I am still haunted by the scene of young wives and young mothers with children begging us for information. We had to be very careful in handling their heart-rending queries.
D. Rajasingh Simon,
The article was very moving. My hearty greetings on the editorial decision to pursue, collect and publish further details on Ms. Joyce that added value to the text of an exemplary and nostalgic recollection of the disastrous accident. I felt like I was there in that compartment. That was the power of the writing.