Santa Singh on Train Number 2627

A parable of contemporary India

Photo: Sid Ganesh/Flickr
Photo: Sid Ganesh

Santa Singh’s love for Indian Railways was legendary. Everyone in Medi Mallasandra, Santa’s ancestral village, knew about his famous attachment to trains, tracks, stations and almost everything to do with the railways. In fact, Santa’s great-grandfather, Master Bantokh Singh was instrumental in bringing the railway line to the erstwhile Mysore state, while his grandfather and several grand-uncles had spent lifetimes working for the railways—trains, you could say, were in Santa’s blood.

So it was not surprising that Santa looked forward to his journey on KK Express (or, Number 2627, as Santa called it) on his way to New Delhi, to make his annual pilgrimage to Rail Museum. He had been doing this every year from the time he could afford the fare—it was his little way of paying his respects to his illustrious grandsire, the great Master Bantokh Singh.

With each passing year, Santa looked on with increasing disappointment as railway property continued to be vandalised (or, desecreted, as Santa termed it). He wrote letters to the Railway Minister, the Railway Board, various General Managers and Station Masters. He admonished Railway Guards and Railway police constables. He even filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the higher judiciary. To no avail. The high officials did not bother to write back. Some low officials just shrugged and asked him to take it easy. Others said they were helpless, and pointed out that the magazine vendor on Platform 2 makes more money than the Station Master. The PIL had yet to come up for hearing, years after Santa had filed it.

As he chained his trusty old VIP suitcase (the kind that didn’t open when it was upside down) to his berth, he noticed that the mirror just outside the lavatory had come loose. He opened the VIP (right side up), pulled out his pouch and fished out the screwdriver that had once belonged to his grandfather. He walked over to the mirror and tightened the screws, and then, settled on his berth, dozed off.

It was close to midnight when he woke up to the sounds of squeaking metal and groaning man. What he saw shocked him. A man in a brown jacket was trying to unscrew the mirror. Another man who somehow reminded him of Brylcreem was egging him on. Santa saw the plot instantly—they were attempting to steal Railway Property! It took him less than a second to get there, and just over two to chase Brown Jacket and Brylcreem away, but ten whole minutes to locate the TT or whatever-they-called-him-now and register a formal complaint. It took him thirty more to register, informally, just what he thought of how the Railways were being run.

The train stopped somewhere at 4:30am for one of those inexplicable reasons they do. Santa decided to give his day an early start and headed to the lavatory with his toothbrush. And surprised Bryclreem, who gave a shout. Brown Jacket hurt his finger and withdrew it, and reflexively thrust it into his mouth, evidently in pain. And in this state, they jumped out of the train, onto the platform and disappeared into the darkness, even as the signal sounded.

Santa was livid. He berated the TT or whatever-they-called-him-now for not being alert and threatened to make a complaint to his superiors. Santa’s anger increased when he saw a hint of a smile on the TT’s face. Before either could do anything, the train jerked to a start. Leaving the rest unsaid, Santa proceeded to brush his teeth.

They would reach New Delhi in a few hours. By this time, Santa Singh’s mind was clear. Brylcreem and Brown Jacket had made three more attempts to steal the mirror, and had succeeded in stealing two screws. Santa knew that they would remove the remaining two before long, perhaps after he disembarked. Santa knew that neither Indian Railways, nor the Railway Police nor the Railway Protection Force could prevent this from happening. And then, Brylcreem and Brown Jacket (and who knows how many accomplices they have, for they surely must have them) would do the same to the next compartment. And the next. And the next. And after KK Express it would be Rajdhani. And then Shatabdi. This was not a S2 problem. It was not a Number 2627 problem. It was a problem for the Indian Railways. And the people whose job it is to protect Indian Railways property were failing to do it properly. Who knows, the officials might secretly be in league with the Brown Jacket & Brylcreem gang.

No, it was in his hands now. Santa Singh had to save his beloved Indian Railways. In one of those moments when a passing ray of sun injects perfect lucidity he knew exactly what he had to do.

He squeezed his VIP suitcase shut, with only a little extra effort. He smiled as he got off Number 2627. Those who loved Indian Railways had finally gone one up on those who didn’t. He could imagine the expression on Brylcreem’s face when he saw four empty holes where the mirror had been. Yes, it was time for those who love Indian Railways to save Indian Railways.

10 thoughts on “Santa Singh on Train Number 2627”

  1. @nitin,

    You forgot to add: a pro-Railway party defended Santa’s actions as being done out of the right intentions.

  2. If I understand the idea behind the story right, it reminds me of what Nicolas Cage does in National Treasure with the Declaration of Independence. 🙂

  3. I understand a lot of people are pissed/against Laloo due to his behaviour as a politico but frankly, Indian railways has improved under his watch. Please utilize the your energy and satire against the home minster.

  4. @dark lord,

    Dude. I know people are reacting to this parable as some kind of Rorsharch test and now you interpret it literally.


    Please include laugh tracks the next time.

  5. @dark lord

    the ‘improvement’ under laloo is largely smoke and mirrors stuff. today 30% of the tickets are reserved for tatkal, and hence priced higher. so the rail earns more, even if the fares are not increased. don’t go by what the media tells you :).

  6. a nice one.

    what we must realise, is in india, everyone wants the others to be honest, while they remain as they are. so no one is willing to take the mantle of leadership. how could they. politicians who are supposed to be the leaders of the country, are not even aware they have been elected as leaders of people, not their masters. they also do not know what is leadership, how else could we be selecting 70 year old people to lead the country (they have no vision, no drive – but they have a lot of manipulative skills). it shames me to see vajpayee or manmohan as my leader.

    my leader would be dynamic, strong (may not be physical), firm (not give in to every pressure), decisive, caring, intelligent, has a strong integrity and loyalty to his people (not his constituency, as is understood by our politicians).

    the leader should be able to inspire his country (how many of our PMs have come in front of TV and given a country education or motivation lectures).

    why is it that our elected representatives are not our leaders? the most basic reason that i can think of is the concept of collective responsibility of the parliament or the cabinet towards the parliament. our entire structure is based on the system of obfuscation of responsibility or accountability. if something goes wrong, the minister promises to look into it (what was he doing till now, and why shud he himself be looking into himself), the bureaucrat gets away saying, the minister makes decision. so how do we get this sense of responsibility in our supposed leaders.

    firstly all of us have to understand, collective responsibility is no responsibility. hence we need to have one leader who would be responsible to the people because he has been elected by them. secondly this leader shud have adequate manouverability to put his vision and mission in action. how do we achieve this??


    how will it help. i do not think vajpayee or manmohan would have ever been elected as leader of the country if they had gone directly to the masses. looking at manmohan makes me feel creepy, and vajpayee makes me feel annoyed. this is where we would have found leaders like azim premjee, ratan tata or the likes of them, and we would have been telling the world how to run their affairs. that leader would inspire the country, as people would feel good about the leader doing well (and lots of public money would be saved from ads of achievements of congress party or BJP/NDA or BSP)

    looking at this man would inspire his team(as it would be a team selected by him, not his party or other compulsions) and the team would deliver the goods. corruption would be eased out (not completely as it is in our blood,. how else would so many invaders come and go from india, and we take pride in them – “we have imbibed so many cultures” that our own culture is non existent). once the leader said no one will use more than two vehicles, he would be obeyed, because it was the leader speaking, not a compromise candidate like Manmohan, or even others, who r just part of the power center.

    why does the TTE not bother about anyone taking taking anything from the railways. try to do that in a jet or kingfisher aircraft? it is because he sees laloo as his role model and emulates him, so whats wrong??

    we the indians have always been short sighted. thats why we bother about the thing immediately in front of us. we do not analyse the cause.

    when the finance minister writes off loans worth 63,000 crores (6,30,00,00,00,000 the word crores clouds the number of zeros), ppl appreciate it because we indians appreciate alms being given to us. imagine if the money had been spent towards the development of agriculture (with only the interest being waived), we would have become a powerhouse of the world, and the farmer would have been able to repay his debt in another two to three crops.

    there is an old saying, “give a fish to the boy and u will teach him to be a beggar, teach him how to fish, and he will never beg again”. we are trying to make the country a beggar. and in the process, surprisingly it is the people with money who are begging. the poor has no knowledge or time to go to the bank to take loan, since he cannot fill up the forms or pay the money to the bank manager to approve the loan (processing fees). these are our leaders, who are making or encouraging the country to become beggars.

  7. Indian Railways carries commodities and people.
    During commodities boom, Railways will make more money.
    Jaffer Sharif, too got good name in early 90’s, when railways was in profits.

    Thanks to anonymous coward, for rightly pointing “Huge improvements are in number of Tatkal seats and Tatkal fares”.

    With cheap airways gone, Railways may make even more money.
    Every time, I’ve taken Kurla-Koymattur Express, I need to go with Tatkal.

    On a lighter note,
    Kengal Hanumantayya, Oscar fernandes, Jaffer Sharif (might be 2 more people) all MP’s from Karnataka have been railway Ministers. Quite competent guys, how come no one earned so much fame like Lalu Yadav.
    Is the profitability, more to do with publicity?

    Surely, there is more than what meets the eye?


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