An attendant opened the door and it was nice. Large room, with good paintings. Good sofa, and a table. Nice electrical fittings. But very soon I realized that a bed appeared to be missing. But before I could ask, the attendant had opened another door. This room was only for people to wait for the person living in the other room. I could immediately guess how Maharajas would have lived. Everything was the best it could be. A king sized bed, a dining table, a sofa, TV, refrigerator, two ACs, the finest crockery, chandeliers, and all that. The path to bathroom was through a walk in closet which could have been a room by itself, and the bathroom was bigger than most apartments in Mumbai. I had never lived in such luxury. I kept going back every few months to give lectures to the next batch, and the next batch and so on, and every time, I stayed in the same room. (It is another thing that when I was checking out, the person asked for my basic pay. I was deemed too junior and not eligible for Air conditioning, and since I had used ACs, I had to pay for it a royal sum of five rupees or so. The room which could easily fetch a rent of Rs. 5,000 was free for me as an RSC guest, but I had to pay for the AC. I was so amused that I told some folks during my next trip. The Director General came to know of it, and he decided that as a special case, I could use AC without paying those five rupees on all my future visits.)
National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR, its new name), but with Ahmedabad as my base, go there by morning train and come back by evening train. So I was going to stay on campus after more than 2 decades. I knew they had converted those rooms into offices, and in any case, as a delegate to Indian Railway Fan Club 13th annual convention, I would get the same type of room that everyone else will get, but frankly, the association of NAIR with those rooms was so strong in my mind, that it wasn't going to be easy living in their hostels, even though I must admit that they are quite fine and meant for railway officers.
Formally, the convention started next day. Director General of NAIR, Mr. Gupta, welcomed us. This was a rare occasion that NAIR had allowed a private gathering on its campus. All the rail fans, were, of course, very grateful to him for this. We had two of the founding members of IRFCA attend the convention (besides me), Mani Vijay and Pushkar Apte. After the welcome speech by DG, he and Pushkar hit the gong. The person who should get the maximum credit for founding it, Vijay, was with us for the first time, and he is seen handing over the IRFCA calendar (and rest of the kit) to DG. The calendar is a beauty, and the best part of it is that it is always February to January. I always get calendars as gifts in January. So if I need to look up a date in the beginning of the year or I need to mark something for the future in the month of December, the only calendar at home that allows me to do this is the IRFCA calendar. And this time, it is really special with so many old restored railway photographs. The inaugural ceremony also included a beautiful song on harmonica by Deepak Modgekar.
NAIR had not just opened its hostels and conference room, but had also opened its heart. They allowed access to its famed model room, where a passionate instructor told us all about signaling and train movement with actual working models.
And it wasn't just NAIR, but the entire Railways establishment which wanted its fans to go back home happy. We went to the Carriage and Wagon workshop at Pratapnagar, the museum next to it, the Electric Loco Shed at Vadodara and the Electric Training Center right next to it. Only in a few conventions we have had so much outdoor activities (namely, BSL2011 and MGS2013).
|Chennai gang in their traditional attire|
No railway journey is complete without lots of good food from the places that you are passing by. How can you go past Agra and not eat its famous Petha. The food is an equally important component of our conventions. And this time, the officers' mess at NAIR, provided the best that Gujarati cuisine had to offer. I can not show any pictures because I don't want my family to know what I have eaten these two days.
The convention also included an exhibition of railway
|Ticket for 1KM|
|Five who have attended all conventions|
|Mani Vijay, myself and Sachin Sharma|
|Beautiful green campus|
While the support from NAIR obviously helped, but organizing a convention is not just about infrastructure. Having organized one in IIT Kanpur where we had received tremendous support from the campus, I know that the success depends crucially on planning everything in great detail. Registration process went very smooth this year. All the directions to the delegates were crystal clear. Proper arrangement about who is going to stay where. No confusion in anything. The menu was superb. The kit, including the calendar, the mug and the backpack, is just awesome. Transport arrangement for all the outdoor activities were nice. You think of it, and they had planned it. If it had taken a huge amount of time and effort, it didn't show on their faces. Always cheerful, always smiling, always willing to help further. At the end I told Khalidbhai. There is only one complaint. How dare you do things in a way that over two days, one cannot find even one negative thing to complain about. Complaining is our birth right, and you cannot take it away from us.
Three cheers to Khalid Kagzi, Sachin Buddhisagar, Nitin Master, and Raghavendra Rao and all other volunteers and members of organizing committee.