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Driving a death train
A Ganesh Nadar in Mumbai | July 12, 2007 14:54 IST
July 11, 2006, started out as just another day on the job for Om Prakash Gupta, a Western Railway motorman.
He reported for duty at 5 pm and was asked to drive the 5.37 pm Virar fast local train from Churchgate station.
It was a normal journey till the western Mumbai suburb of Kandivali for Gupta, who joined the railways in 1992. He had studied up to the 12th standard and then done a diploma in electrical engineering. The railways trained him to drive a train after he took a railways examination and was selected.
On an average he works six and a half hours a day. He has no weekly holiday. His is a job with great responsibility -- there are 4,000 people riding with him at any given time.
And his sense of responsibility was tested when terror struck.
"I had already applied the brakes," says Gupta. "I thought something had happened on the platform. I looked back and saw smoke coming out of my train. I grabbed the fire extinguisher from my cabin and rushed back. The extinguisher was of no use. There was no fire.
"When I went back, the public had started helping the injured. The train was then checked by the bomb squad to make sure there weren't any more explosives. At 3 am they allowed me to move the train.
"As none of the motor coaches had been affected I took the train to the Kandivali carshed. Next morning I drove a local train from Borivali to Churchgate. Only after that did I go home.
"For a few days after the blasts I was worried and nervous. This lasted for two months. But it was only when I was on duty. After that it became normal. The initial fears disappeared.
Image: Om Prakash Gupta | Photograph: Uday Kuckian