Charles stared in horror at the morning newspaper headlines...
“Foreigners targeted by fanatical Anti-British mobs. All foreigners are urged to leave India immediately. The exhilaration of the nation’s birth turned sour overnight, with a widespread frenzied killing spree. Religious and racial hatred manifesting in horrifying extremes...”
“I suspected it would lead to this,” Charles mused as urgent prayer gushed from his lips for protection and guidance.
Charles could hear the clatter of tea-cups as his wife, Elsa, prepared their breakfast. The thought of losing her to brutal attackers vexed his mind.
“Here’s you tea, darling!” Elsa chirped as she set the breakfast before Charles and then planted an affectionate kiss on his furrowed brow.
“Come, Elsa. We need to talk ... who would have imagined that such violence would erupt after British Sovereignty was relinquished to Indian leaders. After all, their battle against Britain was achieved through non-violent disobedience and persuasive dialogue. The entire northern region has descended into chaos. It’s as if generations of pent-up anger has been finally allowed to vent its fury.”
Elsa studied his face. Whatever was ahead, Charles knew that his wife would instinctively trust him.
“Armed patriots are seeking out foreigners. With their crazed minds they will see our white skin and immediately think us to be British Imperialists. We can no longer remain in India. We must leave immediately, today! I’ll make the arrangements for us to travel to South India by train and from there we can board a ship to Australia.
Slipping to their knees the couple prayed, “Lord, You brought us here and we ask You to safely take us out. We know that You are with us, Lord. Make a way for our escape.”
Calcutta Railway Station, 1.25pm.
A fear so palpable that it could be felt permeated the pulsating crowd - all alert, suspicious, straining for sounds of danger, all possessed with singular purpose - to escape the murdering madness that knew no rank, religion or creed.
Charles and Elsa forced their way through to the platform’s edge as the deafening groan of the train’s engine roared above the din of the waiting passengers.
The crowd impatiently surged forward even before the train halted. Charles lifted Elsa up into the closest carriage, then clambered up behind her. The cabin guard immediately saw them and escorted them to their seats. Moments later the train pulled away from the platform. The regular rhythm of the train’s movements soon lulled the weary couple into sleep, a welcome respite from the strain of their peril.
“Saahib! Mamsaahib! Wake up! Hurry! Gunmen have stopped the train. They’ll kill you.”
“Oh God, help us!” Elsa cried.
“Quickly! Get up! Hide in here!” an Indian man urgently pleaded as he shoved away the petrified passengers and lifted the padded seat-cover. Others hurried to assist in the desperate race to conceal the foreign couple in the coffin-like space under the seat. Gunfire could be heard from the next carriage. Women screamed, men shouted. Fear and tension mounted to breaking point. There was no escape!
The armed mob stormed into their carriage just as the men replaced the seat. Muted with fear the passengers sat paralyzed, awaiting their fate. It would be futile trying to bargain with the possessed gunmen, compliance to their demands the only chance for survival. The gunmen’s faces mirrored unnatural rage. With guns aimed they went from person to person seizing money, gold, and watches. Women contending to retain their wedding jewelry were cruelly beaten with gun butts. The fear of death hung heavily, some passengers emptying their bladders, others whimpering in the dreadful suspense. Their world had gone mad with the lawless holding the passage of life or death in their hands.
Lying motionless, Charles and Elsa could hear the savage demands of the gunmen. Their hearts pounded within their chests. Elsa struggled to stifle a scream. Holding her tightly in his arms, Charles whispered, “Don’t speak Elsa! Jesus is with us. Keep very still.”
The sound of gunfire and screams gradually faded.
Finally, Charles and Elsa felt the lurching of the train as it began to edge forward. Their hearts leapt in relief as they heard the excited chatter of surviving passengers rushing to release them. With haste they removed the seat-cover. “They’re gone and you have escaped,” the kind Indian man said in delight as eager hands lifted the couple from their hiding place.
The shadow of death had passed!
“Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.” Psalm 68:20, NIV.
The above recount is based on historical fact and on the true story of the Taylor’s miraculous escape as described in this story.
- by Karen Elengikal
Karen Elengikal is an inspirational, published writer from Sydney, Australia. Karen's first book 'Kidz Battle Zone' was released in 2007. (see FW Book Review).