When Krishna Poojary, a 53-year-old daily wage labourer in Udupi, saw a broken train track on Saturday, he didn’t hesitate to act. Despite an ailment that had left him with a limp, Poojary ran as fast as he could for six kilometres to alert railway authorities. By the time the railway team reached the spot, the earlier gap in the track had already widened and a train bound from Goa was set to arrive.
Diagnosed with a nerve issue in his right leg over a year ago, Poojary had a habit of walking barefoot on the gravelstone bed on the railway track. "I am under injections and medications. However, as a therapeutic relief, the doctor had advised to walk on the gravel stones, as it would relax my leg muscle. Since I stay close to the track at Korangrapady, I have made it a point to walk on it on a daily basis. Otherwise, besides the train there is no other person in that area at any point of time," he said.
A little after 6.30 am on Saturday, Poojary was amidst his regular routine when he noticed a crack at Brahmasthana in Korangrapady. "Since I could not seek anyone's help, I quickly started pacing towards the Indrali railway station," he said. Despite the seething pain, Poojary claims that he was able to reach the station office in 30 minutes.
At the station, Poojary apprised the railway personnel about the track’s condition. The officials immediately alerted higher authorities and within 40 minutes the team led by Poojary reached the spot for inspection. "By the time we reached, the track had already widened. It was later learnt that unaware of the danger, a goods train had somehow managed to pass in the meanwhile," Poojary said.
On learning that a train from Goa was en route, the railway authorities instantly contacted other stations and informed them of the impending danger, while simultaneously fixing the track. "In a short while, we informed other trains to pass. But we had advised them to slow their speed, since temporary emergency devices were put in place to avert the sudden danger," a railway official said.
Generally a coolie worker, in the off season Poojary says he’s a cook at a local eatery called 'Cool point at Korangrapady.’ When asked how he managed to stay committed to the task despite his injury, Krishnappa recounts a memory of witnessing a 40-year old railway accident at Nelamangala. "During those days when education was a luxury, this boy who worked with us at a shack as a waiter had successfully finished his graduation and was returning home. He was deboarding a running train at Nelamangala station, when his bag got stuck in one of the hinges at the boogie door and he was pulled back to the fast moving vehicle. The scene of the body being dragged and crushed is still fresh in my mind, as we watched helplessly," he said. Poojary adds that he is constantly plagued by the thought of the incident. "I would have never been able to forgive myself if something had happened this time. I believe the emotions made me forget my pain and I did not even realise my leg mattered until I reached and alerted the railway officials," he said.