Main Entrance of Charbagh at Midnight
Waiting midnight at 3:00 am at Charbagh Railway station for my daughter coming back from her school trip to Jaipur and around, I was seeing a different sort of railway station altogether. It is not that I had not seen it for a long time or I had not been there at that unearthly time ever, but earlier I had not been at this odd time to receive somebody, and therefore had the time to see around. While usually you find a perennial stream of crowd jostling to rush in or rush out of this British period iconic station, at this wee hour of morning you would find more person sleeping at the platform than walking at it. The people who have to find a connecting train perhaps in the morning or who have nowhere to go right in the midnight and no connections to flaunt to get a cozy wait at AC or VIP lounges, have surrendered to the call of the sleep and were lying in all shapes and sizes. They have surrendered to the circumstances and have no compunction in prostrating themselves at the platform in whatever little spaces they could claim to and with whatever little they could their bed. Usually it is recycled poly sheets or any piece of cloth or any newspaper spread. It’s a surreal feeling of socialism at it’s best where the poorest and not so poorest were sleeping side by side, snore by snore. I used this forced opportunity to pause and look around, though I would not have minded to sleep beside them in that milling cloud. On my part sitting at one of the rare benches of the railway station to wait for her daughter who was coming back after a cherished trip, I was feeling like a responsible father. I smiled at the scene around me and just then the train carrying my daughter chugged in at the platform.
She was really happy to find me right in front of my bogey and as she alighted, hugged me. Both of us came out of sleeping labyrinthine negotiating like a skilled driver through the lanes of sleeping millions. We were happy to see that not many were disturbed in this whole process……
Charbagh Railway Station Platform 1
The Beauty of Good Old Days
I went to Charbagh railways station this evening to help board my sister, travelling back to Dehradun after Rakshabandhan. My son too was with me to say good bye to his Bua Ji. The train was little late and we were chatting and also concentrating on occasional announcements made through public address system. Suddenly my son asked, ” Papa, are there no weighing machines on the platform now?”. I was really not prepared for this query. In this just one question the entire gamut of precious memories was recalled in flip seconds.
I remembered the days when my son and daughter at the age of five or six used to look at machines with amusements. The lighting in the machines was always kiddish and therefore kids would stand in front of that and just see that. Then glancing here and there, the kids would step on the machine to see the small wheel spinning by their weight. The machine would however do nothing without inserting coins. Then they would come back rushing to us demanding coins. We would smile and normally surrender to their innocent requests. Then they would rush to the machines and stand on the platform with confidence of having coin to insert, when prompted by the machine. The machine would do all sorts of tricks including some announcements in a husky voice, to please a child or any young at heart and then would after a lot of churning literally, throw out a ticket displaying the weight of the kid. The kid would pick that up from the slot in a hurry lest the machine should gobble up their ticket back! Then they would rush back to us and show that prized asset. Sometimes we would find messages on the back of the ticket and would read them aloud like an astrologer. The kid then would take that ticket back and with all attention keep it in the pocket of his knickers. He would keep on checking the ticket on and off and if, met a kid on the journey would never miss a chance to flaunt that prized asset. The parents normally would be witnessing all of this with a sense of nostalgic smile. They too would have done that, at their age and their parents most likely would have smiled in the same fashion.
It took less than a minute to recall above memories and I looked around to hope against hope that they may be some machine still left there. There was none. I thought of trying at more organised platform no 1, but the result was the same. There was none there too. I asked a vendor on the station, if there were any left in any corner. He smiled back at me and said that the last one was rooted out almost two years back. It was a sad news to hear that. I looked towards my son and he was equally disappointed. I decided to lighten up the atmosphere by asking him to join me for a selfie. He came close to me to get that. In this age of selfies, perhaps there is no room for old machines. Though I was smiling in the selfie, I felt little lost in the memories……