Plus - Letter to the Editor

Yal Devi was a way of life for the Jaffna citizen

Much has been said and written about the Yal Devi lately. As a regular traveller on this train in bygone days, I feel I should share my experiences with readers.

The Yal Devi was a very comfortable train. You got into the Yal Devi after lunch and you reached Jaffna in time for dinner. The same way, you got into the Utthara Devi early morning and reached Jaffna in time for lunch. The train was kept very neat and tidy, the toilets were clean, and there was a good catering service with courteous staff.

The Yal Devi thundered along the rail tracks for decades until it was stopped in its track by the separatist terrorists, who believed the train was working against their ideals, because the Yal Devi brought together the people of the North and the South.

The train served as a link between the country’s various communities. Today’s Jaffna generation may not know what the Yal Devi is, because they may not have seen a train or a railway track in their lifetime.

The words Yal Devi have become part of the Jaffna Tamil language. When a person walked fast, people would say he moved like the Yal Devi.

The people of Jaffna loved this train because it was their link to Colombo and the outside world.I remember the joy and excitement when the Yal Devi first arrived at the Jaffna railway station. Crowds came to greet their families and friends, and porters and taxi drivers competed for business from the affluent passengers from Colombo.

The moment the train arrived at the Jaffna station, word would spread that the Yal Devi had arrived. There were some residents who would not go to sleep until the Yal Devi arrived.

The long hours on the train brought strangers together, many of who became life-long friends. I know a number of people who met their life partners for the first time on the Yal Devi.

As a frequent traveller, I noted that there was no change of crew, or should we say guards, on the Yal Devi, unlike on the Jaffna Night Mail train, where the crew changed at Anuradhapura. I hope that when the Yal Devi resumes its run in the future, the authorities will make sure the crew is changed at Anuradhapura, so they are not worn out by long hours of duty.

By the way, the Yal Devi, Utthara Devi, Udaya Devi, Samudra Devi, Ruhunu Kumari, Rajarata Rajini, Podi Menike, Udarata Menike are all female names. How come trains are never given male names? Can somebody explain this?

In conclusion, it would be relevant to relate an experience I had on the Indian railway during a recent visit. I travelled by train from Chennai to New Delhi.

The Indian Railways are famed for their punctuality. Trains travelling thousands of miles arrive on the dot at their destinations. People say you can adjust your watches by checking the arrival times of trains in India.

In our country, trains travelling from Panadura to Colombo never arrive on time. Our Sri Lankan Railways have to learn punctuality from our Indian counterparts.

P. V. S. Rangan, Dehiwela

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