The railway station couldn’t know that it would become an integral part of people’s lives in the future. A future which was brought by the colonial masters of our past. From using slow bullock carts to suddenly using quick foreign transport in the 1800s, surely, this was not the idea the freedom fighters had in mind when they started with the Swadeshi movement.
All the stations in Mumbai as well as its suburbs are known for their fast life. The trains are said to be the backbone for travellers from remote villages, to the working sectors of the economic hub. Playfully known as ‘Thé-shun’ by the rickshaw wala, this place has been a melting pot of entrepreneurs and a money making-point for all the surrounding dwellers. Their motives of either helping the lost souls or looting the tourist have been a topic of conversation for any travellers who have visited these wonders of the city.
Who knew that once a straight smoke-puffing engine would cross through the small islands it would sprout different tributaries to various parts of the new cities? Every new stream brought a new civilization, a new place for home and a different place to explore. But when houses mushroomed near these magnetic areas, it fetched more money forever greedy builders and brought happiness to severely struggling rickshaw walas. Therefore, every station seemed to have this subtle fight amongst themselves despite never meeting each other. The fight for its right to become ‘famous’. Some became known by giving a more secure place to alight for work, whereas others gained fame by seducing the normies into settling for a better spacious home. Was it going to be that easy for these stations? No. In all these fights the transport, who was the main personnel, had a wish of its own. Being the sprinter of everyday marathons, the transport did not stay under the secure roof for a long time even though some stations begged them to halt. Like a naughty child of its own demands, it stayed only for the red lollipops and ran away at the sight of any greens. Though the passengers loved the greens, the stations wished the red lollipops appeared in their space for some more time.
So, what does it mean to be a railway station? Probably nothing for some or probably everything for others. A sense of loss for the ever-busy canteen shops — which open before the sun dawns and shuts when the moon is at its peak; A sense of loss for the people who reside where the lights don’t reach and are blanketed by the shadows of the neglected parts; A sense of loss for the ignored newspaper stands searching for customers in the ever-increasing digital world and a sense of loss for the unkempt washrooms that are always abandoned, except when shady business deals go down in them without being known. It is nothing but a concrete floor and a metallic roof for the privileged ones but everything for the discarded creatures and maddened beggars of the cities.
The station is never partial to its passengers. From the people who hustled through the crowd to the melancholic drained spirits returning, she recharges and drains their energy all the same. Sometimes bursting and babbling, sometimes staying isolated and desolate and many other times being a blend of both. The station’s main role was to look after her people, tend to their inner and outer wounds, and hold and let go of those who robbed or were being robbed. She humoured herself with the irony and the stories that played under her roof.
Seasons come and go, days pass by — but the station stays. Always stationary for the people who need it. Either scaring the naive, inviting the evil or strengthening the innocent. Teaching lessons to all in her own way.