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Saturday, February 9, 2013

The lure of steam!

Life must go on.

Romesh Sethi  had always been someone we took for granted. His awesome presence right from the day the society came into being on the 23rd of October 1999 was always a source of inspiration support and strength. My association with him at that time was almost a decade old and it therefore gave me  confidence that he is the only one who had the temerity to take the movement, the steam movement forward in a nation that rarely cared about its past or even its present, a confidence that was never belied.

Yet when he suddenly left for the other world on the 17th of November 2012, all of us who knew him intimately were not only shell shocked but also experienced our entire world coming apart, for we knew that the almighty had built only one like him, one who was human to the core besides being the finest officer railways had sired in its almost one hundred and sixty years of existence.  

Yet life must go on for he had been an embodiment of life itself. It was indeed tragic that someone who breathed life into everyone and everything had life sniffed out of him suddenly and surprisingly. It is therefore but appropriate that the tenth national steam congress scheduled on the 24th of February this year is a mark of tribute to this great man.

The steam movement that began with the historic run of the fairy queen and made waves cutting across countries and oceans towards the turn of the century is now truly picking up steam. First Rewari happened after almost eight years of deathly silence and then recently Amritsar also woke up and started blowing life in engines that one thought had gone to seed. The restoration of WP 7161, followed in quick succession by WL 15005, the Patiala State Monorail Train of the Museum and the KC 520 that belonged to the hills have literally set the steam world on fire. India has suddenly moved to the forefront of the international steam scene even though most of its inhabitants are yet to fully appreciate this unique achievement of a tremendous stature. Yet I am confident that definitely some day they shall.

The movement does not belong to an individual, though Romesh Sethi individually raised it to towering heights. It is the handiwork of some very committed individuals from different walks of life and their efforts with the support of organizations like the Rewari Steam loco shed, Perambur loco works, the DHR society of the UK and the federal Ministry of Tourism have now started bearing fruit. The ground reality of a hundred year old steam locomotive bellowing steam right in the heart of the capital is indeed a testimony to the monumental effort that makes up the rear. In the very near future, with the exception of perhaps matheran, other four hill railways would be able to boast of steam in some form in their midst and that would definitely not be a mean achievement even by the most stringent of standards. 

What next? The Indian Steam Railway Society, a society with a cause would do well to publicize its efforts amongst the masses at large besides encouraging the federal and state governments to give this niche heritage as well as tourism segment the place that it rightfully deserves. After all was it not the steam kettle experiments of James Watt followed by the steam locomotive of George Stephenson that has raised the world to its present stage of advancement?

The humanity indeed owes a lot to the power and aura of steam and should forever be grateful!

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