NEW DELHI: During his two-decade-long career with the Indian Railways, station master Anil Kumar Shukla has helped passengers in multiple ways. He has now added retrieving a gold chain from poop to his list of accomplishments.
Shukla, currently posted at the Yeola station - about 35 kilometres from Shirdi and 260 kilometres northeast of Mumbai - got a call on July 16, informing him that a passenger had dropped a gold chain in the toilet of a train passing through his station.
"It was an unusual call, no doubt about that," laughed Shukla when contacted by PTI. "I rushed out when a passenger stopped the train and said he had dropped his gold chain into the toilet and wanted us to find it," said Shukla.
The gold chain weighed 50 grams, said its owner, Dr Chavan Patil, an orthopaedic surgeon, and was worth Rs 1.5 lakh.
"It is a lot of money to flush down the drain," said Patil, who was travelling from Nonand to Manmad in Maharashtra by the Maharashtra Express on July 16 and dropped his chain while changing his shirt at the Yeola station, which falls on the Ahmednagar-Manmad rail route.
The doctor sought help from the officials and his expectations weren't misplaced. The Railways, after all, had in recent times taken a slew of measures to meet passenger needs - from delivering medicines, wheelchairs, food and blankets to retrieving phones and laptops left behind.
However, this time, the Railways' helping hand could literally stink from the effort.
"After I pulled the chain to stop the train, the guard and station master came to help me out. However, they said they couldn't do much because the toilet was bio-tech and could be opened only by the cleaning crew at Kolhapur. They asked me to go to Kolhapur and make enquiries," Patil said.
Patil, however, went home to Phaltan, around six hours from Yeola -- and then his tech-savy daughter took over.
On July 18, she posted a tweet, urging Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu to intervene in the matter.
The minister replied in 10 minutes.
"I have given orders to concerned department to do the needful," he tweeted.
In half an hour, Patil got a call from the Pune Railway station chief, asking him about the lost chain.
"He asked me to go to Kolhapur the next day. I did, and learnt the toilet was not bio-tech but the usual one," he said.
So, the chain, they realised, had fallen through the hole in the Indian style toilet at Yeola station.
It was then that station master Shukla received his second "unusual call" in as many days.
Informed that the chain was somewhere on the tracks of his station, Shukla, along with his staff, scoured an area of around two kilometres. To compound matters, it was also raining heavily that day.
And then he spotted something jutting out of the pebbles.
"We used a wire to pull it out. Yes, it was dirty and covered in filth, but nothing a good wash couldn't get rid of," he said.
A heavy-duty wash under a tap at the station later, the chain finally made it to the hands of its very persistent owner, three days after it went down a black hole.
It is, however, not clear if Patil wore the chain immediately on its return!
But what's known is that the effort that went into locating the chain wasn't quite a waste.