Riding the Train of Life

Trains don’t just transport people and goods, but also their dreams. As it happened for Zeishan Quadri, the man who scripted the epic gangster flick Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2.

Zeishan Quadri first came to the city of dreams after undertaking the long and arduous 38-hour journey from Dhanbad to Mumbai in Howrah-Mumbai CST Mail or Mumbai Mail on his birthday (March 17) in 2009. And the rest is history. He came, met the maverick film-maker, shared his story idea and conquered a lion’s share of cinema-goers’ fancy with the sordid saga of rivalry, revenge, and retribution in his debut film. For the uninitiated, Quadri is all set to regale his fans and repeat the feat in the third installment of the franchise, Gangs of Wasseypur 1.5 that he is writing and will direct it as well. He has not just written films, but also acted in a few (Gangs of Wasseypur 2, Revolver Rani,etc.), produced a handful (Prague, Sarabjit, among many others) and directed one Meeruthiya Gangsters.

The Evolving Years

Born in Wasseypur, a sleepy Muslim locality in Jharkhand’s coal capital Dhanbad, for him, trains symbolise hope and as a way and means to escape from the mundane to the make-believe reel world. The railway track next to Quadri’s house in Dhanbad served as the helipad of his dreams. He used to draw a lot solace in seeing the steam engines chugging along the rugged tracks. This imagery served as the backdrop for the iconic scene in Gangs of Wasseypur 1, where Shahid Khan impersonates Sultan Qureshi’s identity to rob British ferry trains, setting on track the sordid saga of rivalry, revenge and retribution between the Qureshis, Khans, and Singhs.

Growing up in Dhanbad meant that trains were the only mode of long distance travel, and wherever one had to go, it had to be on a train and nothing else. Reminiscing those old days when trains were the most popular means of transport, Quadri said, “Taking the train has long been popular in our part of the country; it’s almost considered a rite of passage for us in Dhanbad. This was mostly by default than choice as coal capital still doesn’t have an airport but it is a wellconnected railhead.”

 Living Dreams

As a fresh-faced 19-year-old, he used to travel frequently to Kolkata in Black Diamond and Coalfield Express with his bunch of buddies. “Those trips to Kolkata are memorable. We used to board the train early in the morning and return the same day after spending some hours in Calcutta (as it was then known as). It was my first independent venture to see the world beyond the sheltered precincts of Dhanbad, to meet people for fun and get to know more about them — who they are, why and where they are going — out of curiosity. But these trips have given me memories to last a lifetime,” he said.

Zeishan Quadri

The hurly-burly at the stations and on trains served as a place of bonding, not just with friends but also strangers be it the porter, or vendor, Train Ticket Examiner and, of course, fellow travellers. A train trip was synonymous with the prank. “We were a dozen of us who used to travel together to Kolkata. Once, I deliberately bought only 11 tickets. While 11of us had a ticket each, the one who didn’t have it was left to our mercy. All through the four-hours journey, we had fun at his expense. I had already taken the TTE into confidence and explained that we want to scare the shit out of this fellow, the otherwise bully in our group. TTE was game for it, and he told him tersely to pay the penalty for ticket-less travel or go to jail. When the TTE saw the boy in tears, he burst into laughter and ended the game.”

Day trips in trains meant truckloads of fun as one had to run and grab the seat as there was nothing called a confirmed seat. “It was a game of all or none, and one could get a seat only on a first come, first served basis. And if you couldn’t manage to grab one, no amount of pleading, cajoling, or yelling, would get the occupant of the ‘reserved seat’ to budge, and allow you the luxury to sit. That meant stand-up travel.”

The World of Train

He prefers trains more than flying and travelling in a car as one gets to do a lot more on trains. Though it is a timeconsuming affair, he finds the idea of taking a train refreshingly traditional and thoroughly enjoyable. And for obvious reasons: the dreamer in him feeds on multiple images that he comes across while travelling on a train. “In an airport, you are quickly whisked from point A to B, and there’s no time to stand and stare. The train journey can be a destination in itself, with so much to offer in between. The sight of people arriving, departing and riding the train is fascinating. One can listen and tell each other stories about adventures and update each other on their current activities. Being in a train allows one to face each other when talking, look out the window and discuss something. This sort of bonding can never happen in a car, bus or flight.”

Though he is left with no choice, but travel by air keeping in mind his busy schedule which is packed to capacity with a hundred to-dos, but would still travel by train if time permits. “I took my first flight in 2003 from Bengaluru to Mumbai. And since then I have only travelled by air. But I find train journeys relaxing and rejuvenating and one of the least stressful forms of transportation out there. Someone else does the driving; you have more legroom than you would on an airplane, and you’ll be able to move around at will.”

When his parents took a train to Pakistan, he was left wondering if he would ever give them the pleasure of travelling by air. Today he has the means to do so, but their humble background makes them reluctant to spend on flight tickets. The train is still their preferred choice, no matter how long is the journey.

After he had finished his schooling in Dhanbad, he moved on to Patna for medical coaching, to Bhubaneshwar for business and from there to Meerut for his undergrad studies and to Delhi for earning his bread and butter. An avid traveller, he has vivid memories of all his train journeys. Even though his parents booked his tickets for 3 Tier AC Coach, he used to cover the entire trip in the sleeper class. “It gave me a lot of exposure, and I came back from the trip, a little tired but a lot more enriched.”

Dream Trip

And one train journey that is long due is a dream trip on the popular luxury train, Palace on Wheels. Maybe someday when he can afford the luxury of taking some time off for leisure.

written by Shillpi A Singh

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