Comfortably Numb

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Published on: 03/2/22 6:24 AM

Book review: Yesterday`s Train to Nowhere by Krishna Rau

Yesterday`s Train to Nowhere by Krishna Rau, Inkfeathers Books.

The memoirs of this army doctor, a compilation of his adventures — for adventures they all are — while posted in one-dog towns of the northeast, makes for a most enjoyable read. Infused with just the right amount of droll wit and sarcasm, the locales as also the locals,  come alive on the page vividly.

So here is an armyman who wears his pride in his career, his love for the organization he serves, his concern for the seriously ill people he sees in the course of a workday, on his sleeve, and it does him nothing but credit.

The discipline, ethos and rigour of army life is clearly delineated, but it is the witty recollections that take price of place. The seventeen short accounts include encounters with sundry eccentric but affable senior officers, their comely wives and even more comely daughters, a couple of other-wordly encounters, and unusual activities like performing a Caesarian on a dog under the baleful eye of its owner, facing down belligerent elephants, how Services folk go out of their way to help a colleague in need, how a boy with rabies inadvertently saves his parents from a truculent mob, a couple of Florence nightingale-like nursing officers, a soldier who kept dying then coming back to life, an adept driver who was blind in one eye,  how Murthy the Mess cook was deftly `stolen` by a senior officer who had come to dinner, and a delightful impromptu meeting with Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw.

Full of wit and humour

The funny bits are plentiful. Sample this: the years pass and the author and his coursemate and best buddy Euks seemed to be stuck in Hathiwadi,  while others batchmates were already being posted to new stations. `Kris`, says the best buddy dolefully, `they`ve forgotten about us.  A thousand years from now when they excavate at good old Hathiwadi, they`ll find our skeletons  here with this blasted stethoscope around our necks and say they were the last survivors of this place, a new anthropological entity called Medicopithicus hathiwadiensis.`

The backstory to the title of the book is equally funny. As young officers heading to their hitherto unheard-of place of posting on a decrepit train, they were concerned when the train made an unscheduled stop. They went up to the driver and asked where the train was headed to. Kibuthu NE, was what the driver replied. Kidhar bhi nahin  (to nowhere),  was what they heard. And thus these tales were born.

The sketches by Rathi Rao leaven the text well. The book serves as an excellent vehicle to go down Memory Lane for army officers serving and retired, as well as their families. For those on Civvy Street, it is an endearing glimpse into another kind of life where the pros clearly outweigh the cons.


Krishna Raulife as an army docmemoirs of an army doctorwitty talesYesterday`s Train to Nowhere

Sheila Kumar • March 2, 2022

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