The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: Chapter twenty-three. Refugee Canteen
caption: Lumding Junction
medium: books
person: Rankin/ Mrs.
location: Lumding
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: (169) Lumding was unique, in that it was pure junction. It had no other 'raison d'etre' whatever. It had originally been built, in a clearing hacked in the steamy green Nambhor Forest at the point where the proposed Hill Section Line was due to meet that running up the Assam Valley. Unhappily, when the Hill Section was completed the actual junction came at a point about a mile and a half west of where they had already constructed Lumding. So there the two were; the station, platforms, signals, sheds, yards and town, as isolated in the jungle - except for the railway - as an island-universe in space; and, beyond it, a mute divergence in the heart of the forest, where one bare line went one way, and one the other, each disappearing into a green channel of vegetation like two friends cutting each other dead. The place was in the first throes of that confusion which would undoubtedly have swamped Assam had the Japanese come in. The yards were choked with wagons - loads of bamboo, of building materials, which, in the panic, no one had claimed; consignments left lying about unforwarded till the siding overflowed on to the main line, and mail-trains had to wait at the outer signals while, in a sudden frenzy, the trucks were shunted up into a temporary jam elsewhere; to be decompressed again, and left re-blocking the through tracks, as soon as the immediate crisis had passed.
text: Had it not been for the providential Mrs Rankin of the railway, there wouldn't have been a canteen. For there was nothing; no shed, store, hut, space, cookshed, food or fuel; not even a place where we could sleep. All was panic, a (170) dusty confusion, like an anthill dug out into the light of day. She it was who conjured table-tops from nowhere and commandeered girders on which to put them. She it was, by virtue of her husband's authority, who found us charcoal stoves from the engine-sheds, and a room at the Institute for our apparatus; who badgered someone, somewhere, into doing something about the promised buildings for us. Money, food, equipment and helpers, supposedly there, were not. In those first two weeks we had exactly as much as we could collect for ourselves, and we lived on Mrs Rankin's local knowledge.