Intro: Slow life in an atmospheric railway landmark
Here’s a little survey of the National Capital Region — for one city, it turns out to be particularly embarrassing. New Delhi railway station has 16 platforms. Ghaziabad railway station has 6. Faridabad has 4. Gurugram has 3.
And they say Gurugram is the Millennium City.
Even so, while the station is comparatively minuscule, it is an object of historical curiosity. In a place such as Gurugram, where everything noteworthy appears to have spring up after the year 2000, this station traces its origins to the Rajputana-Malwa metre-gauge line, laid way back in 1879. Indeed, according to the Gurgaon Gazetteer, 1883, the Rajputana-Malwa State Railway was the first railway in India to be constructed following the metre-gauge standards, and the first railway to be built and operated under the government of British India.
Today, the station exists like a lonely island, hardly bearing any resemblance with the hyperactive metropolis that Gurugram has become. If a foreigner were airdropped into it, she would refuse to believe that this is the only station in a sprawling city otherwise stuffed with swanky malls and high-rises. The station is so laidback that it is difficult to spot even a coolie, or porter. There are anyway only six of them—Vishnu, Ajay Tiwari, Ram Kripal, Raju, Sunil and Bhagwan Shah. Not surprisingly, time in the station moves as slowly as any lazy passenger train, though some buzz can be experienced around the bread-pakora cart on platform 2. As for Platform 1, it used to have a bookstore (the only non-academic bookshop in this part of the city) but it shut down a year ago and now sells biscuits and namkeens. A snack cart nearby, however, makes excellent green chilly pakoras.
But let’s go back to Platform 2 and its own cluster of high-rises—it has quite a few trees, and among them the tallest, the densest is a most luxuriant banyan. A huge plinth is built around its trunk, which itself is so huge that more than ten people would have to hold hands to make a circle around it. Existing like a self-sustaining eco-system under the tree’s welcoming shade, this sanctuary can rival the AC of any First Class Waiting Room. Squirrels run after one another along scores of narrow, twisty sub-branches. The foliage itself is alive with bird sounds, but so leafy that you can barely spot the birds. Very often waiting passengers lie under it for a nap.
In fact, the atmosphere around the tree is what city folks like us might imagine a sleepy village square to be. While the entire station remains one of those places in urbanised Gurugram where you can spot folks dressed in ethnic costumes—men in turbans and dhotis, and women in long ghagras.
One of the most evocative sights in the station is found on a wall of the entrance foyer. It lists trains passing through Gurugram, and connecting it to places such as Sultanpur, Sikar, Ajmer, Bhuj and Farrukhnagar. There are actually two boards—one lists trains going towards the direction of Rewari, the other lists trains going towards Delhi. The layout resembles the pages of the railway timetable book that most train users kept at home before the internet made it museum worthy.
Gazing a moment upon this wall is reason enough to treasure the small railway station.
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