Political noise and the steam engine . . !


TODAY, as I listen to the political noise, the talk by rivals, the rabid thrusts, the bluster and blabber, the eyeball looks, and ferocious threats, I think of the steam engine! In my mind, even today, there is no ferocious, powerful, robust, beast, like the steam engine of yesterday.

Even now whenever I want to imagine something more terrible than a dragon, a monster belching smoke, a machine of pure energy, I picture the steam engine.

I still remember the walk to the railway line as a child: It took place when my dad came home a little early.

There were no TVs those days, and our entertainment lay in books, but when dad got home early, he would have that look in his eye, which meant the whole family was going for a stroll. A stroll meant a walk, and a brisk one it was in the sometimes biting cold to the railway track.

Now this was no ordinary line. It lay wedged between two rising hills, and in the centre of both these small hills, ran the railway.

We walked, my brother and I with stilled excitement, sometimes glancing at each other, grinning because we knew what we were going to experience, and of course on the way, my dad would stop at the vada woman’s hut, where my mother would ask if the vadas were hot, she always said they were, and loaded with those steaming morsels we continued our journey to the railway line.

It was a vantage spot we sat on; on one of the little hills, where there was a bend. Here we could hear the steam engine but not see it till it took the turn.

We sat, in anticipation. The signal went down, and we heard it, far away, the buildup of sound, no whistle was needed, no horn sounded, animals moved out with the feeling of its presence, and then as we watched half in awe, half in terror, the furious monster took the bend, and in a synchronized movement of steel and wheels, and smoke and steam, it charged, literally lunged up the line: Oh what a magnificent spectacle, especially afterwards as we ate those vadas in silence imbibing the feeling of majestic power.

But, today that steam engine is no more. The ones that cruise at speeds five times that of the steam monster run silently. Power is noiseless and quiet. No bluster, no buildup of tension.

Is there a lesson for us, that all the sound and commotion made by some political leaders are but a cacophony of bluster! That finally, it’s the silent, sure and swift, that ultimately win! I remember the steam engine, I do remember its frightening fury, but there’s a smile which has replaced the fright and awe I once had, a smile that knows all that threatening noise was finally beaten by stillness, sureness and speed..!

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