Erhard Hans Josef Lang

Rookie - 171 Points (January 8,1957 / Günzburg/Danube Germany)

Against All Odds - Meetings With An Indian Railway God - Poem by Erhard Hans Josef Lang

This is a true story that occurred in my life,
Which goes to show
What a limitless power it is -
The urge of Mind's sway.

I am a German boy of an
Old hoof-smiths' gender,
The first in line to fall out of my forefathers' mould
Due to the innovations of modern day surpassing
Our handling of the beasts of burden of yore.

And as major push towards a life of wanderings and explorations,
That, in the end, led me to encounter
This story of which I am telling here,
May be counted the fact that a certain
Hereditary restlessness was in my veins,
Possibly already stemming
From a very outgoing nature in my good mother's parental home
Where traditionally the village folk, young and old,
Used to gather for common parlour -
A hub knob of a whole tiny big world in itself -
Instilling in me a thirst to go out
Into the world to explore for myself
The hidden truths behind the phenomenal and ephemeral.

And I landed, eventually, in Southern India,
In the city of Madurai,
Dressed myself up like as any good local boy does,
In gallantly draped white cloth.

Coming in by train. I
Met at the Madurai station,
While idly loitering around after arrival,
Their local railway station master -
One imposing, smart-looking figure.

We were dressed both the same style, he and I,
And he might have liked my going after
His country's fashion, thus sifting me out.

He took me upstairs to the station's cafeteria,
And it was there and then that I realized
How stupendously wise
Great people of India are.

This station master was such a cosy pychnic -
Garrulously talking it away
In lovely tones telling me and my travel companion,
Who had an amuleted dog with him,
Wise, well-focused words in a stream of various contexts -,

And most amazingly:
He knew everything even about dogs,
Since my companion had brought one cute dog
All the way from far Varanasi.
Yes, he knew all about
What's common and what's different with various pets,
With their behaviour, their likes and dislikes,
And everything about them.

But not only that - he left me with
The feeling that this was a man
Who could tell you about anything -
Any other topic - you name it! - as expediently -
Things one wouldn't have come to think of, otherwise.

From the cafeteria Madurai's station master then walked to downtown
Together with us two tourists
Finally to bid farewell at the junction to his home.

In those days I then had commenced to
Study to read the Tamil alphabet.
Thus it had come about that some Tamil man told me
That Madurai station master
Was commonly known in town as
The Railway God of Madurai.

I was, at that time, at the tender age of twenty.
For the next ten years to come
I had not taken to travelling at all
Spending time in my German home.

But I had never forgotten, whenever
I recalled my trips to India,
About one impressive Tamil man - and his eloquent wisdom:
This man was the one they called the Railway God of Madurai.
And many many times it was that
I told stories to friends
About my endearing encounter with this one impressive Indian figure.

Another ten years into time I moved out from Germany
And I settled down in a town
On the southern island of Mindanao
In the Philippines.

And again, I came to tell many of my new friends there
The story of my one-time meeting in Madurai
With one whom they called their Railway God.

Another eight years later,
I came to visit the town of Madurai
Once again, and I went to look for the old station master.
I stepped inside the office room, where,
At the Madurai station it read 'station master',
But the old man I was looking for,
Was not there, instead four flabberghasted young men
Asking me what I was up to there.
They wouldn't give me any clues, and seemed to be engaged
In a power dispute among each other at the time.
So I just left it all at that.

Another two years later in time, travelling once more,
Again I happened to be
For a few days' stay in that same city of Madurai.
I had made, in the meantime, some acquaintances
With local boys there, all very friendly to me.

During that one stay then,
Suddenly I was invited by the boys
To join a Hindu funeral party.
'If I would like to come - and see
How we Hindus deal with death? '
So I went with them, and
Already on the way to the house of the deceased person,
I somehow felt a premonition in my chest.
I asked my friendly guides -
Really but knowing yet nothing, just giving it a try -
If the dead person were the old
Railway station master of their town.

And lo! to my very surprise,
This is what they confirmed:
'Yes, station master! the station master has died, '
So they replied,
'And his sons want you to be there for their father's funeral.'

And there I was, face to face, with my
'Most Remembered Indian of All Times', once more,
As he was seated,
Having passed on to a higher world
After one dignified full life-time,
In his grandfather chair there, with his horned glasses on,
Looking toward the main door
As if he were still alive.

There were dozens of mourners,
Women, men, and children, lining up on all sides,
In and around the departured one's house,
And they were, as it seemed,
All waiting for me, -
To anoint the forehead of
The Railway God of my memories.

This is a true story that occurred in my life,
Which goes to show
What a limitless power it is -
The urge of Mind's sway.

My mother's maiden name was Sedlmeir.
Sedl in Tamil means a fair ground's carousel.
Ayyar denotes any Tamil family of good standing.
In my mother's German parental village home
May well have stood in the old days
Such a Sedl carousel.

We are all still linked up together
Through the cultural links created
By our ancient fathers,
Which at times bring us together, quite mysteriously,
In present days,
As I've enjoyed to experience in this outstanding story.

Comments about Against All Odds - Meetings With An Indian Railway God by Erhard Hans Josef Lang

  • (5/18/2012 6:22:00 PM)

    Quite a story in form of poetry. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Indira Renganathan (12/24/2009 1:31:00 AM)

    Very touching story...a memorable poem10 (Report) Reply

  • Ashraful Musaddeq (5/22/2009 12:59:00 AM)

    A beautiful poetic story- Legendery job is done.
    (Report) Reply

Read all 3 comments »

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, May 21, 2009

Poem Edited: Thursday, May 21, 2009

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