Simis’ Lively Social Scene at Jamalpur
Jamalpur is what you make it to be - a lazy, sleepy little town in Bihar or a vibrant, picturesque spot in Eastern Railway. Striking a chord in each of us - be it golfers, painters, poets, dramatists, scouts, students, trekkers, climbers, couch potatoes or workaholics.
Though occasionally dabbling in all these pursuits, one wonders how the representatives - of the most upcoming stars of the new millennium - the dynamic Indian women - are largely occupying themselves.
Well Jamalpur seems to have cast a spell on them also. ERWWO - short for “Eastern Railway Women’s Welfare Organisation” has Simis comprising one third of its strength - it’s President Ila Jain ’65 also being a Simi. ERWWO, besides starting many welfare schemes, is also bitten by the creative bug and has many colourful gala events to its credit in the last two years. To begin with, the festival of Teej was celebrated in a milieu of colour and ethnic ambience - the dress code being ‘Rural India’. The officer’s dresses ranged from village “choudhurl’ to the “dudhwala” and women dressed as pretty and pert village belles.
The fest had a solo classical dance choreographed and performed by a Simi, Reena Poddar ’84 to the lilting tunes of ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’. An authentic looking thatched hut’s courtyard constituted the stage’s facade. Some folk songs and a ghazal sung by Abha Pradeep Kumar ’68 were part of the programme. A harvest dance of Bengal added colour, and more solo dances on Ila Arun’s sprightly songs zing, to the evening ‘s entertainment. The dinner was imaginatively served in earthen vessels lined with banana leaves and decorated with marigold petals along with buttermilk enjoyed in kulhars.
The next attempt was a cultural programme put together for G.M./ Eastern Railway, Mr. & Mrs. Ramanathan’s visit. Mr. & Mrs. R. N. Aga’61 along with many officials from Headquarters also accompanied him.
This time the programme called “Aadaab Arz” was conceived with the theme and dress code of ‘Mughal Era’. The officers had their gear coming from Calcutta and Patna, while the Simis raided their friends and relatives lockers looking for exotic jewellery in Moslem designs. The officer’s club was be-decked with a ‘Meena Bazar’ at the entrance and the hall was transformed into Diwaan-e-khaas. An ingenuous plywood structure was created to give the ambience of the arched architecture of the Muslim Era with satin curtains and chandeliers adorning it.
Instead of the ceremonial ‘Diya’, a ‘Shama’ was designed which Mrs. Ramanathan lit and to welcome the guests a ‘Nazm’ composed by Ila Jain ’65 was sung by a Moslem beauty.
A solo dance by Preeti Kumar ’88 on ‘Inhi logo ne’ and a spirited qawwali in which officers also participated, Dharmendra Kumar ’88 mainly upholding the men’s side, were the highlights of the programme. The best-dressed couple, in the most authentic Moslem finery, was given a prize by Mrs. Aga ’61. This was followed by the finals of the ghazal singing contest held for the railway staff by ERRWO. A delectable spread of Mughlai cuisine was then served and enjoyed by one and all.
The latest regalia displayed in ERWWO Jamalpur’s “Husbands’ night 1999" reproduced the gaiety of Rajasthan’s ‘Pushkar Mela’. ERRWO-ites and officers really went to town in obtaining authentic Rajasthani gear. Nikhilesh Jain ’65 dressed as a Rajput sporting a huge ‘naqli’ beard and moustache was difficult to recognise.
A very creative transformation took place when the former facade of Mughal arches were repainted and done up to look like the backdrop of Rajasthan’s haveli’s. The evening started with Rajasthani folk songs and Dandia dance. Inspired by India’s astounding success at the world beauty pageants lately, a catwalk and a fashion show contest was organised. Jamalpur, no less than Hyderabad, in having talented beauties, may just as well be in fashion news in future. Ila Jain ’65 and Preeti Kumar ’88 were amongst the winners of the contest.
To further entertain the guests a ‘Safa’ tying contest for men was held. Hilarious attempts were made and most officers got educated in this intricate skill of Rajasthan.
The evening concluded with Gutte ki subzi, roti, sag and many other Rajasthani delicacies served in thatched roof huts with haystacks and charpoys placed strategically around coal sigris.
Major events interspersed with picnics at the Gorayya falls and Kharagpur lake, a dip in the hot sulphur springs at Bhim baandh, dance parties around camp fires, Mongolian food on a Sunday afternoon etc. kept up the fun. We now hear a ‘ladies-day-out’ is being planned by the ERRWO husbands!!!
The Hon. MINISTER of RAILWAYS
Smt. Mamata Banerjee
Sub: - FULL UTILISATION of RAILWAY INFRASTRUCTURE
Ref.- TOI News Service Report, published in TOI of Nov. 20, 99
As a retired General Manager of the Railways and an active railwayman from 1940 till today, I highly appreciate your calling upon leading public/private industries“ to make greater use of the railways freight carrying capacity and investing in railway infrastructure.”
There are certainly some railway sectors, like new rolling stock, replacement of overage track, new technology signalling and safety projects, which need urgent investments. There are, however, some important railway assets, like big marshalling yards and almost all steam locomotives workshops, which have become redundant and are lying almost idle or heavily under-utilised. While on one hand existing workshops, still called only mechanical workshops are lying mostly idle expansion and new investments continue to be made in other workshops, called electrical, civil and signal workshops.
For a railwayman today all workshops are Railway Workshops and must be utilised fully before any new investment is made anywhere else.
Your decision “that the task force recently constituted by the ministry to identify areas for private sector participation will be expanded to give adequate representation to public (probably the reporter has missed out the words “and private”) sector undertakings dealing with the railways.” It will be my privilege to help this task force to achieve its objective, if they so desire.
To start with, it is strongly recommended that the Task Force takes up the study of the best and biggest workshop JAMALPUR, which at one time was humming with the highly efficient output of 13,000 men. And today, not even 30% of its original fixed assets and skilled technical human resources are being utilised!
Another unique feature of this workshop Jamalpur is that by its side a small technical school started in 1888 has now developed into a sprawling international standard engineering institution producing Mechanical/Electrical Railway engineers, since 1927. This Institute, too, is considerably under utilised and its full potential for development of Human Resources for Indian Railways , other Railways in Asia, and Indian Industry, public and private, is not being fully exploited.
May I request you to spare a little of your time to grant me an interview during which I can place before you some more proposals , based obviously on my personal knowledge, observations and experience of railway working during the lastfifty years or so, mainly with a view to make our Railways safer and profitable !
A line in reply will be highly appreciated.
…I read the morning newspaper in total peace and at leisure.
…Enhanced the feeling of peace and leisure by sipping a hot cup of the best tea from the eastern hills while reading the paper.
…I got into whatever clothes that caught my fancy on that particular day.
…Played my favourite FM music programme in the background.
…And so on.
Crash! My idyllic world came to an abrupt end a few months back. Peace, quiet, leisure, idyllic - now alien words, whose spelling I have got right only by using SpellCheck in my Word programme.
No, readers, there hasn’tbeen a flood or earthquake or cyclone, of which there have been plenty in the last few months. The cause of my sudden change in fortune has been the fact that my wife decided to give up her teaching job and began to stay at home and reverted to being a full-time house-wife.
Not that I have anything against house-wives. They have their roles and functions. Many advantages too. Reminds me of my first posting at Rajkot as AME way back in 1972. The railway house allotted to me came along with a family inthe outhouse. The lady of the outhouse met me on the first day itself and being a novice at the game I asked her what she would do. She replied that she would do whatever the ghar ki aurat (or house-wife) did. Needless to say I had no difficulty continuing with her in the out-house. The point I’m trying to make is that at that stage in life I was not married and thus needed the services of the lady of the outhouse. After marriage, such services by the outhouse types can be dispensed with. If the outhouse inhabitants are used at all, they are used by the house-wife and not by you.
Coming back to the immediate problem. While house-wives are Ok on week-ends or in the evenings, too much of a good thing can lead to difficulties. With my wife doing a school teaching job for the last two decades, I had got used to certain comforts which resulted directly out of her being a working woman. For instance, schools have the horrifying tendency to open at unearthly hours. Thus, the good teacher left home at least an hour before I did. And, that gave me the pleasure of being by myself when I got ready for facing the bad world of the railways. Now, this peace is missing. The better half wants full-time attention all the time you are at home. I have now perfected the art of skim reading morning papers. While being fond of music, the type she likes is quite different from the type I normally listen to - so, bye bye to FM radio. After I have fully dressed and am ready to step out, she finds that the colour of my gray shirt is too dark for my graying hair or that my socks don’t match my tie. Any tea after the morning one in bed is a no no.
So, now you understand my predicament.
The problem does not end there. In the past, the good old teaching days, since she spent a major part of the day outside, she had quite a bit to do in the evenings. I was left to my own devises pretty often. Those were the days…. Now, she completes all chores during the day itself while I am at office and is available full time to give me attention when I’m at home. My evening Discovery Channel viewing has gone in the same direction as the morning radio FM, to name just one problem that has arisen.
But that’s not all. My wife happened to be a counselor when at school. She’s actually good at it. She enjoys doing it. All her compulsions were fully satisfied when a school-full of children going astray due to the doings of their misdirected parents was at her beck and call. Now, her only victim is the hubby. I am analysed every dayand even if I sneeze, the intensity and type of sneeze leads to conclusions that can often be incriminating. So, I have to keep very quiet and not open my mouth. My friends will tell you that I seem to have lost my voice.
My only advice to all with working wives is that you ensure that you retire before your wife does. On the other side of the coin, female Sams with working husbands, of course, are too young to be able to answer the question as to what working husbands should do!! Apart from being young, all working husbands till date have been Sams.
I heard with great dismay that IRIMEE has tied up with a local Engineering College for a degree to be awarded to the SCAs passing out. This, I presume, will in effect mean that SCAs will have to follow the curriculum imposed by the college.
I want to give some of my experiences I have had in the non-railway world with my Jamalpur teaching and training.
When we joined Jamalpur in 1949, it was a little known place and the SCA scheme was not even well known in the Railways let alone the business or Govt. organisations. We had a very difficult time explaining to anyone (including departments in the Indian Railways other than Mechanical Dept.) who or what we were.
I think this continued till the end of the 60’s after which thanks to the illustrious Principals and the outstanding performance of SCAs in all spheres, that the SCA scheme of Jamalpur started getting known and, to some extent, acknowledged.
Today all this is history and IRIMEE and the SCAs have come to be recognised as a force to reckon with. The anecdotes recounted below will illustrate what I mean.
Late last year I was on the way to acquire a public limited company quoted in the stock exchange. As per SEBI regulations I had to fill up a form which amongst other things required my qualification. There were two very senior reputed persons of the business world sitting withme helping me fill up the form. When I was about to fill in M.I.Mech they said just write Jamalpur and nothing else. I was somewhat taken aback but they assured me that Jamalpur is so well known that only the name will explain all.When the notification came out in the papers and to the shareholders, I found it was written that I was a Graduate Mech. engineer from the Rly. College of Engg., Jamalpur.
The next surprise came to me when I had gone to the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur a few days ago on one of myregular visits. One of the monks whom I knew over the last 10 years suddenly came to me and said that I knew you were in the Railways but you never told me that you were from Jamalpur? I asked him what was so great about Jamalpur that I should specially tell him.He said that he had heard from both from Rly. and non- Rly.-men that only the most brilliant of boys get selected and they come out even more brilliant and have excelled in all spheres of life!!
Currently I am the Chairman of the National Backward Class Finance and Development Corporation- a Govt. of India organisation under the Ministry of Social Justice ( Smt. Maneka Gandhi). I have to interact with a large number of Sr. Govt. Officers. When they learn that I am from Jamalpur their respect for me goes up.
Today I feel IRIMEE Jamalpur has come to hold a very high place in its own right and its needs no crutches to stand on. In fact it will only bring ridicule.
I would respectfully request the authorities that be, to reconsider their decision and go back to status quo. If a degree from elsewhere is felt necessary in place of the M.I.Mech.E. (only for ego satisfaction) I would suggest going to a reputed foreign university which can be done via satellite these days. A few years ago I had nearly concluded such a deal for Peerless Hospital with Canada. As I left Peerless this did not materialise.
Vinamra Mishra ’98
(This is not an original idea. However, the author has got it from an esteemed member of our community only.)
Talking of the new millennium, you have to talk of the almighty bug …The Y2K. Intellectuals opine that it is because of some inadequate data information that makes it an uphill task for the ‘artificial-intelligence’ to make an entry into the new millennium. On the other hand, the philosophers argue that amidst the phenomenal development of the machine, the error has come as awarning bell to strive towards an improved consciousness among the engineers and software designers.
But perceptions and arguments differ from person to person. I was interested in how the people of our good old Jamalpur reacted to this. So I went aroundon a survey and came across many people unaware of this global bug. Interestingly the people came up with unexpected answers, answers that did befit their position but that did not have any relevance with the topic in question.
The first pigeon in my cage was a school going child with a bag, of almost half the size of his small stature. I hastily put my question across to him,” Do you know something about the biggest problem facing the world in the new millennium?” He thought for a few seconds and suddenly the grin on his face vanished into thin air. He said,” Bhaiya, my teacher is very shrewd. He has given me fifteen chapters to learn in Geography, overall revision of Maths course and submission of the assignment book just after the school re-opens. You know whosoever does not do his assignment he makes them stand on the bench. That is very embarrassing. I don’t think there’s any problem mightier than that”. “Well, that was it”, I thought. He really had a difficult job at hand and though it was not exactly the answer I was looking for, yet I felt that the boy had his own Y2K.
Next was the manager of our local bank, a bank which, inspite of being a double-room structure, still remains to be the hub of human activity. I put across the same question and this time the answer didn’t take a lot of time to come. “Why, there can be no bugs in my bank?”, he retorted back in a flash, “because there are no computers here”, the reason was quick to follow. “We still believe that a human brain is more efficient than these boxes. So we have decided against keeping the computer. And my Strong-Room is not so weak either, to allow these erratic bugs to get in anytime they like”, he said pointing towards a depleted door with a even more depleted lock. He could have gone on to make me understand his point of view, but I thought it was better to make a speedy exit. Even the manager had got his own Y2K.
I decided to take a rickshaw to go back to Gym and on my way I thought it would be interesting to test his wits. I asked him the same question. At first he tried to avoid me but I repeated shamelessly, so he had to. He said,” Sahib, as you see this rickshaw is a new one. I didn’t have the adequate money to buy it. So I had to mortgage my small land to the Sahukar. The time limit that he has given ends this January. I am not able to make out as to what should be done”. I didn’t feel the need to continue the conversation with him. Well, the rickshaw-Walla had a pretty justified version of Y2K with him.