Be it Howrah or Guwahati, Tatanagar or Allahabad, Gwalior or New Delhi, Mumbai CST or Hyderabad --- these large busy Railway stations with all modern amenities hardly attract me. Rather I feel a bit of repulsion due to the crowd and commotion.
In contrast I get drawn to small nondescript Railway stations that dot the length and breadth of this vast country. Indeed many of these stations, experienced while on tour or due to an accident of destiny, have left an indelible impression upon me.
When I was just a teen, I went to a relative's house from our maternal grandparents' home at Suri(Birbhum district). It was a village close to a highway. Prior to returning, news arrived that due to certain agitation, buses had stopped travelling! So what to do! Somebody suggested to avail the train.
The railway line is approximately 3-4 km away. We started for it by walking through green paddy fields and sugarcane plantations to reach a tiny station named Mahisadahari with neither platform nor sheds! Only an abandoned goods train bogie is standing there announcing the name of the station on its body! An unique experience indeed!
In the mid 80-s, Rukni station of Purulia district while approaching our ancestral village. It was a station with two long platforms but barring the time of occasional trains, it remained absolutely desolate. Since our village was far away from the station with absolutely zero transportation facility, we had no other option but to wait for the pre-arranged vehicle to arrive from the village.
In the meantime I was strolling throughout the station. Unlike the rest of green Bengal, this part is absolutely barren and rocky with tree-less hillocks here and there. Barring a few huts and railway quarters, the area around the station is almost bereft of human beings also. As I went up the overbridge and looked down and around, it seemed I am the Lord over this whole area!
Or Kumardubi station in erstwhile Bihar(now Jharkhand) just across the West Bengal border. It was 1995 and I reached the station by accident as road traffic towards Dhanbad had gone haywire due to some reason. It was a cold January dark evening with constant drizzle and strong chilly wind. Remained huddled under a tiny shed to beat the wind and rainfall.
Like in the much earlier days, beating a metallic plate with a hammer marked the incoming train! And in utter confusion due to darkness all around, I misjudged the number of the platform and opted to leave the Up Dhanbad-bound train assuming it to be a Down Howrah-bound one! How I succeeded in at last reaching Dhanbad well after midnight is another exciting story!
Or that unknown small Madhya Pradesh station between Morena and Gwalior from where the Agra Cantonment-Jhansi passenger train just "forgot to move" for about 2 hours after reaching there just at dusk! It was so dark that I couldn't read the name of the station either! No water on the platform. No tea stall as well. However, never would I forget that experience, despite scorching thirst and abnormally long wait, because of the divinity of the local passengers who, far from expressing aggression, took it all in their stride and roamed around the platform or sang bhajans on the coaches so as to enjoy the time!
Hats off to their positive spirit. And they also dwelt on such a philosophical height that when the train at last commenced its journey, nobody emitted a sound of joy or relief also! Indeed what an education of life, how to lead it calmly by enduring all possible adversities!
New Mal Junction --- entry point of exquisite Dooars in North Bengal. A tiny sparsely crowded station with just two almost empty platforms. And a look towards the Northern side reveals “never ending” tea plantations kissing the lower Himalayas of Darjeeling district and Bhutan at the horizon! A heavenly sight indeed!
How can I forget the Barog station high above in Himachal Pradesh! Never did I imagine that the Kalka-Shimla cute train would stop there for a significant amount of time due to the crossing of another train from the opposite side enabling the passengers to enjoy a leisurely lunch at the restaurant on the platform! And what a spectacular site for lunch with Himalayan ridges on all sides and the mouth of a tunnel right at the start/end of the station!
Though not exactly small stations, still Goa’s Vasco-da-Gama emitted a special flavor for an old world charm revolving around it and Bihar’s Raxaul, on the Nepal border, stands apart because of a semblance of Nepalese architecture gracing its façade. And Dimapur gave a feeling of excitement because of being the doorway to the exquisite states of Nagaland and Manipur!
Ending my romance with small or special stations of India with its highest one “responding” to the name of Ghum --- the jewel in the crown of Darjeeling Himalayan Railways.
Boasting of a Railway museum on its platform featuring rare old photographs in the backdrop of snow white Kanchenjunga and other geographical features, the fog and mist enveloping the surroundings coupled with glass of warm tea or coffee is nothing but a traveller’s delight and a memory bank to be recollected with relish for many many years to come!