Among WR M/men, creativity was the name of the game. There were "Charlie Zinga", "Butler Fernandes", "Shivaji Maharaj", "Specialwala Shingte", to name a few.
Although I know history behind most names, I am still puzzled by Charlie Zinga. Zinga means some kind of fish in local East Indian dialect. Charlie was comic in every sense. During his first driving test after training, he was asked to correctly identify and replace a blown fuse in motor coach of 1928 stock rake. To make sure everything goes okay, Charlie carried a complete set of fuses in the pockets of his buggy trouser and "fixed" the defect.
At another time, Charlie was working a train departing CCG at 12:00 hrs. The Divisional EE who was a Sikh, came to his cab and asked about the departure time. Charlie did not want to offend him by saying "Bara Baje" or 12 noon. Instead, he said, it departs at "11 hrs, 59 minutes and 60 seconds", Sir!
There were 4 M/men with last name Fernandes, Edward, Anthony, Nicholas and Butler. It was rumored that "Butler" Fernandes' father worked as butler, but the name stuck on this guy. On his last day before retirement, WR arranged an EMU decorated with external lights for him to drive. But if you had asked even a DI about the occasion, he would have said, "Butler Fernandes is retiring today".
Shivaji Maharaj a.k.a. Ratnakar Gavankar is my cousin. He worked as A-grade in Rajkot division before moving to Mumbai as M/man. Every now and then, he would refer to Shivaji Maharaj, hence the name. After retirement, he settled in Pune.
Burly in appearance, Specialwala Shingte was always mistaken as "Specialwala" by street hawkers. (Specialwala is a term used for cops in CID Special Branch in Mumbai). He rarely worked evening and night sets and preferred to work only single sets during daytime. One day, he was working evening set, a passenger at CCG told him that guard's blinker is on. Poor Shingte, having worked in daytime singles all along, did not know how to turn off this blinker.
Three brothers worked as M/men at the same time, a rare feat in WR, Naren, Prem and Ranjit Pardesi. Naren and Prem have retired now. Ranjit still works. Like Prem, Ranjit joined Railway as a hockey player and represented WR in National tourneys. At one time, his teammates were visiting Mumbai and he offered them a ride. Aston Pereira was a DI at that time and he saw Ranjit's cab full of Turbans.
When confronted the next day. Ranjit explained, "Sir, they were members of OH crew". Aston was never known to be a civilized speaker. "You ba_t_rd, we don't have Sardarjis working as OH crew in Mumbai", he exploded. Aston died in NY few years back.
Railway strike (by M/men) during emergency opened some unexpected quarters. M/men from WR and CR came to know each other during their stay in jail. For me, it was another opportunity. One day, my close friend, M/man B.M. Khanna was working a Virar train. I was waiting at Dadar only to be disappointed to see Assistant EE, Shri Varad Rajan in cab. I was about to leave when Khanna called me and invited for a ride. As we started, AEE asked me who I was. I replied, "M/man CR, sir". The next question was, "Mr. Khanna, do you know him?". "Yes sir, we were in jail together during the strike" was the convincing response.
Life for officers in Railway is not necessarily an easy one, especially in Mumbai. They face a lot of political pressure and may have to compromise with their principles against their will. Here is one episode.
My best friend, M/man B.M. Khanna, was a kind of dare devil person with a large friend circle. One morning, he started his rake from Platform #1 at BCT. What was the aspect of signal? Nobody knows for sure. When this starter is not in Auto mode, the default for red aspect is always entry to car-shed rather than continuation to down local line.
Khanna stopped at the entrance of car-shed.
An enquiry was conducted and Sr DEE at BCT decided to take severe action (read it as dismissal) against Khanna. The union disagreed. Every day, there was a picket at CCG with slogans, "Khanna in, Datta out" and rumors of flash strike by M/men were flying in air.
I knew Sr DEE Shri Datta very well. A very good manager and fair person to deal with, he is remembered for getting the maximum allotment of railway quarters to M/men during his tenure. No other officer has beaten that record.
Well, politics does not care for anybody. Khanna was back on the road. (He retired few years back and committed suicide because he could not bear pain from throat cancer).
Bob Colabawala and Phiroze R, both Parsi, were good friends of mine. Bob, a very nice person normally, was unpredictable at times. One night Phiroze was working Virar train when my friend from Vasai met him at CCG. Phiroze offered him a ride. Catch-22 was, Phiroze was working this rake up to Andheri and Bob would continue to take it to Virar.
When Bob came in at ADH, Phiroze asked him if he would give a ride for his friend to Vasai. Bob refused.
A couple of days later, I invited my friend for nice Ragda Pattis at Virar. We came to Vasai station and I saw Bob entering in. He opened the door and while entering in, I said that I have a friend with me.
As we settled in, Bob looked at my friend and recognized that he was one whom he denied a ride earlier. He spoke in typical, spicy, Parsi Gujrati, "Bhen___, why did not you tell me that you were Prakash's friend?"
During 1983 visit, I wanted to go to Surat to see my friends, buy some Ghari and some biscuits from famous Dotivala Bakery. (I did not know Zubin Dotivala, then). When Itold my best friend, Sudhakar R. about it, he invited me for a ride in Jammu Tawi next day. Rajdhani and Jammu Tawi were very prestigious trains those days, manned by two A-grade drivers per trip.
I was staying at Kandivali so I asked him, if he could pick me up at KILE. He said, no problem. That day, Jammu Tawi had arrived several hours late, coated with black soot, and departed 3 hours late. In down direction, Soli Bharucha was driving, he picked me up promptly at KILE. Both Soli and Sudhakar were fine drivers.
We passed Mira Road at 110 kms, 10 kms over the track speed due to down gradient from BVI. But the real drama took place after Vaitarana when we were in AC zone. The master controller was at notch 28, the highest notch and weak field tapping at four. The speedometer was stuck at 120 kms, it could not go further.
By counting the mile stones per minute, we were comfortably riding at 130 kms/h. Hats off to Soli. He retired a few years back.
When my close friend, M/man Khanna got married in Vasai court, he and his bride were picked up from Lower Parel by diverting a fast Virar train on slow track. He drove the train with his bride on M/man's seat while M/man and DI sat on guard's seat.
It may sound illegal to some but for railway folks, it was an event to celebrate a colleague's marriage.
May be some will understand, others may not.