Old-world charm in modern times

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 26 Jul 2018 11:48:48




Vijay Phanshikar,

The first impression of the Nagpur Railway Station a four-year-old boy carried sixty-four years ago was of its enormity. The little head could not fathom how big the Station was. But as the little boy stood holding his father’s hand waiting for the train to arrive and bring along his uncle from Bhopal, all he could think of was the vastness of the whole place, with countless people milling around, swarming at the doors of train compartments, rushing,
running, laughing, crying, shouting, fighting and yet in a terrific hurry to go somewhere -- each one of them. For the little boy, everything was so much beyond thought, so much beyond comprehension. Back home with the young uncle who worked in Bhopal, all that the boy could talk about was the Nagpur Railway Station -- the big, big Station.

Sixty-four years later, that impression still persists. Even after having seen many other and much bigger railway stations in the country and elsewhere -- like the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the New Delhi Railway Station, the Chennai Railway Station, the New York Central Railway and Tube Station -- the first impression of the Nagpur Railway Station still continues to be bewitching. Now also, as one stands in front of the beautifully architectured building of the Nagpur Railway Station, one cannot avoid feeling overawed, overwhelmed, and bowled over. There are not many Railway Station building in the world as beautiful as the one of Nagpur Railway Station. Now also, one feels the searing temptation to roam around the premises of the Nagpur Railway Station purposelessly, and also take a tour of the place inside the majestic building.

Of course, things have changed massively now. No matter how crowded the place used to be more than sixty years ago, it often looked a graceful entity. For, in those days, the collective human culture had not sunk as low as it has today. In those days, even a little child could feel an all--pervading sense of respect for others. True, there would be a quarrel here and a dispute there. Yet, the overall atmosphere of the Nagpur Railway Station was one of calmness -- despite the tensions and anxieties an opportunity of travel often brought to anybody.

There is no doubt that there are far more numbers of people at the Nagpur Railway Station at any given point in time than they used to be in those good old days. Yet, the sense of calmness that was evident everywhere is just almost totally missing now, thanks to the crass ways of looking at life and living it that we experience today. Some of us do tend to cover up bad things of today under the garb of increased population. But that is only a fake reason. For even in those days, when the trains arrived and departed in just a few minutes, the crowds appeared almost as dense as they do today. Yet, the sense of order that one experienced in those good old days is almost totally missing today. This is visible everywhere, of course, but more so at the Nagpur Railway Station. Despite the changes that have been brought about at the place, despite
better comforts on some counts, the Nagpur Railway Station continues to impress everybody because of its enormity.

As a journalist, I have been to the Nagpur Railway Station to cover the arrivals -- and departures -- of many a VVIP. Many of them attracted tremendous crowds of their followers -- some having come out of their choice and others having been brought in truckloads. But one late evening, the word came that the then President-elect Mr. V.V. Giri and his good lady were travelling to New Delhi for swearing-in ceremony. So, I rushed to the Nagpur Railway Station. True, there were some security personnel there, as well as some Government officers by way of protocol, plus a few political workers. No matter their presence, the whole atmosphere was one of a calm order.

The Tamil Nadu Express came to a slow stop. The door of the first class compartment opened, and there he stood, tall and graceful -- in sheer white clothes, his balding head tilting slightly to the left and a broad smile adorning his longish handsome face. I stepped forward, clicked a few quick pictures, and picked up courage to ask a question. Surprisingly, I was the only journalist there at that moment. The President-elect was willing to answer questions and the chat went on for a few minutes, with the material good enough for a big (and exclusive) copy for front page.

Mr. Giri had lived in Nagpur as a labour leader -- perhaps of railway unions -- for some time in his young days. After answering my questions, he said almost as if to no one in particular, “This station is really majestic”. He then went on to say, in effect, ‘There are stations and stations, some big
some small. But this one is special -- very dignified’.
This impression still persists, no matter the changes, including the actual railway engine mounted on a high stand in the front yard. So majestic is the building that nothing else seems to have a shouting presence against its persona.

On countless occasions, the Railways gave the Nagpur Station some or the other award -- some for its cleanliness as well. As many as three railway divisions operate from Nagpur. It is one of the biggest junctions in the country. It has seen many a historic moment, including the arrivals and departures of personages of eminence of Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Babu Rajendra Prasad, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, Golwalkar Guruji, Mrs. Indira Gandhi ...! This can be said of any railway station, though. Yet, the Station at Nagpur is in its own category, and everybody notices its differentness, its uniqueness.

Many modern amenities have been added to the Nagpur Railway Station with passage of time and in tune with changing expectations. Yet, there is some old-world charm about the Nagpur Railway Station. Even in modern times, the sounds and silences the place emits appear to have an
old-world touch that refuses to go away. The place has an almost spiritual quality to remind everybody of that endearing oldness whose warmth can never be gotten over with.