The first time I saw a train, I was standing on a wooded slope outside a tunnel, not far from Kalka. Suddenly, with a shrill whistle and a great burst of steam, a green and black engine came snorting out of the blackness. I turned and ran to my father. “A dragon!” I shouted.”There’s a dragon coming out of its cave!”
Since then, steam engines and dragons have always inspired the same sort of feelings in me-wonder, awe, and delight. Even now, when I see a train coming round the bend of a hill, or crossing a bridge, or cutting across a wide flat plain, I feel the same sort of innocent wonder that I felt as a boy.
Small wayside stations have always facing me remember such stop on a line then a went through the Tea forests near the for of the Himalayas, about ten at night, the station watchman le his kerosene lamp started walking up the tracks “Where are you going?” I asked To see if the tunnel is clear,” he said. “The Overland Mail comes in twenty minutes”accompanied him along the track which led to the tunnel. Every night, the watchman walked through the dark tun and then stood outside to wave his lamp to the oncoming train as a signal that the track was clear if the engine driver did not see the lamp he would stop the train.
Having inspected the tunnel, we stood outside, waiting for the train to think the Overlap The sounds of the forest came to us, the belling of a sambar deer and the cry of a jackal told us that perhaps a tiger or a leopard was on the prow.
The watchman stood outside the tunnel listening to the faint jungle sounds which only he could identify and understand. Something made him stand very still for a few moments, looking into the darkness, and I knew that everything was not as it should be. There is something in the tunnel,” he said. I could hear nothing at first, but then there came a continuous sound, just like the sound made by someone sawing through the branch of a tree.
“Baghera!” whispered the watchman. He had said enough to enable me to recognize the sound, the sound of a leopard trying to find its mate. “The train will be coming soon. We must drive the animal out, or will be run over!” He said, “Do not be afraid, I know this leopard well. We have seen each other many times He has a weakness for stray dogs and goats, but he will not harm us.” He gave me his small hand-ax to hold and, raising his Lamp high, started walking into the tunnel, shouting at the top of his
voice to try and scare away the animal. I followed close behind him think the leopard We had gone about twenty yards into the tunnel when the light from the lamp fell on the leopard. He was crouching between the tracks only about twenty feet from us Why do you attack only stray dogs and goats?
He bared his teeth in a snarl and went down on his belly, tail twitching. I thought he was going to spring. The khalasi and I shouted together. Our voices rang and echoed through the tunnel And the leopard, uncertain as to how many humans were in there with him, turned swiftly and disappeared in the darkness We walked until the end of the tunnel without seeing the leopard again. As we returned to the entrance of the tunnel, the rails began to hum and we knew the train was coming.
And then the engine came round the bend, hissing at us, scattering sparks into the darkness, as it roared through the steep sides of the cutting. the sound words It charged straight at the tunnel and into it, thundering past us like the beautiful dragon of my dreams.