Updated: Apr 16
Originally posted on October 21, 2021,
Did you ever sit in a quiet train station without worrying about boarding a train? If yes, then you can just look inward in your memory lanes to go back there again, as you are about to relive those memories as you keep reading forward. If no, then you can experience the feeling through this post and may get tempted to experience it in person as well. Either ways, I am sharing my own experience and nostalgia in this post.
In India, train travels are an integral part of life. This large country which is hodgepodge of many languages, dialects, cultures, and traditions is largely connected by Indian railways. Being one of the cheapest mode of long distance travel, most Indians travel from villages to towns and cities, to pursue their dreams on these trains and then travel back occasionally, to share their stories with their friends and relatives. Most Indians have a nostalgia attached to their train journeys. Travelling across the length and breadth of this country and enjoying its breathtaking landscapes from the train window has a beauty of its own. Moreover, you also get to enjoy the hustle-bustle of the railway hawkers, vendors, passengers speaking local languages. All these together makes an interesting mix of sounds which is in between euphony and cacophony, sometimes pleasant sometimes not. Then comes the train platforms where people are rushing to board or alight the trains, hawkers shouting at top of their voice to attract buyers, friends and relatives of passengers, porters, railway employees, many others busy in their own business and some people like me lost in all these or in their own thoughts. So platforms are mostly the busy kinds, but there are also the other kind, the quiet ones, in the unknown quiet little towns and villages of India. These are my favourite.
The quiet platforms seem to be under a balmy spell. The silence is neither scary nor melancholic, rather it is calm, peaceful and contemplative. I am very fond of such train platforms. Many times in my train journeys along the eastern ghats of India, the train would pass by many such stations without bothering about them. Then suddenly this speeding train has to let go its arrogance and stop by such stations unpredicted because the station master might not have got the signal to let it go ahead. The train and most of its passengers stand helpless, angry and impatient about this uncertain halt. But then, there are passengers like me for whom it is an opportunity and a blessing in disguise to quench the thirst of enjoying these platforms to the fullest. These quiet platforms don’t have the madness of the large ones. They are serene with simple earthy coloured concrete picket fence, broken at some places worn out with time or neglect or purposely removed to make a shortcut way into the station. Sometimes these fences are beautiful with bright mauve, pink, red or orange bougainvillea creepers growing untamed. A small sloping roofed station building stands with the station master holding little red and green flags. There are dotted presence of passengers in these stations and one or two vendors selling locally grown fruits. The couple of benches in the station are mostly empty.
These sleepy stations are more interesting at nights, especially foggy, and misty nights. The dark train platform is lit in some places with yellow neon lights that appear blurred and in haze through the fog. They look picture perfect scene for a mysterious suspense movie. Meanwhile, I peer a little more deeper to see if I can see anything beyond the station platform. Alas! The mist covered it all. However, I am thankful because any glimpse of what lies beyond would only increase my knowledge, but drastically mar my imagination that has already run wild with mysterious stories. Sometimes these stations at night look very romantic, especially in the moonlit nights.
Coming back to my painting, “the quiet train platform” is in a monsoon set up with a small town platform wet after a fresh shower. The cloudy weather in the background of the painting promises to bring a few more showers. The green eastern ghats turn emerald green after these fresh monsoon rains. Although the painting was referred from a photograph clicked in Kerala in the western ghats of India by a friend Mudh Haneefa, my imagination took me to my familiar eastern ghats. This painting today is a part of a private collection and it is very special to me as it is my first ever painting sold.
However, coming to the end of this blog, my inward mind has already travelled across all those large and tiny stations. I was again the little girl with two ponytails looking out of the train window with a happy heart. My love for these quiet stations will remain always with me. The quieter the better. I wish I can someday sit in a quiet empty station that can be both, thrilling and serene at the same time. In all my train journeys in future also, I will always look out for such quiet stations. Crowded stations have cacophony and stories. But quiet stations have a longing, silent waiting and deep nostalgia.