There are a number of places which one chooses to be at, not for the reason that one has a kind of desperate need to be there but just because one feels like being around just for the hell of it. One of those places is a neighboring railway station in my case.
I know this is odd, if that’s the right word. Because what you see in a railways station is a booking counter where the waiting line seems endless, an enquiry counter where you can make enquiries about where the dickens the chap who is supposed to be in it has gone to. Then there will be those shops that sell food which might not look edible at all.
You may occasionally have to encounter a stout gentleman asking you directions for the seventh platform. That’s a little hard to explain, I mean. There will be a big crowd of imbeciles that always travel in groups to explore new places to infest. The whole place has an air of dirtiness. Apart from all the little niggles I always like a railway station.
This affection might be a byproduct of my longing desire to travel on a train in my childhood.
My father wasn’t having a good deal of bread those days, so we didn’t have the license of going around the globe in a plane and all. As a matter of truth I still haven’t ever entered into a flying piece of equipment. All my father could handle was to book a train onetime a year or so and we go for a holiday to the residences of uncles of sorts who were doing relatively better. I had always wished that the train reached the destination very much behind schedule so that I could have my bench next to the glass and gaze at the uninhabited vastness that lies sandwiched between two cities, grubbing the edibles sold then and there.
Whenever I spotted a hut or something surrounded by enormous pasture fields I wondered how greater it might be to reside in one of those. I wouldn’t have to go to a school and I could play all the time. Even though that I at this moment become conscious of the fact that it is a dreadful scheme to live miles away from civilization, it seemed to be first-class at that time.
However, I couldn’t understand how the curiosity of sitting by the window in a train translated into the practice of just spending some time in a railway station for no raison d’être whatsoever. One gets these sudden whims. It has something to do certainly with the complexities of the human brain, I am told. I can’t precisely put in the picture when I got that into me. I reckon it happened when I was in the twelfth grade.
My emotional state was in its scrawniest shape at that time. Every calendar day subsequent to the lessons getting over, my mind used to get occupied by the subject of worship of an adored object. The adored object being unattainable, it was a poignant situash. My heart panged for her.
On my way back to the domicile from the classes there was this overpass that runs on top of the neighboring railway station and we required to cross it. It was fairly narrow and packed with buses and it had a breakable pedestrian lane all along its sides. Of course the prudent thing to do is to get out of the bedlam as fast as possible. But for some extraordinary reason, self and my associates constantly chose to stand on the foot path for some time chewing on some haphazard theme which sooner or later would be diverted towards my private subjects. And I then would become speechless apparently. It was on those situations I imagine I tried to get out of it by fixing my gaze on some unbiased entity which turned out to be the station. The image from that view hit me deeper and deeper as days passed by.
Whenever offsprings start scribbling on their easel, they always commence with some geometric outlines and then they advance to drawing a home. I think the individual’s mind gain knowledge of things in a particular order. I know this because when I was a toddler I kicked off my artistic career with a home that wasn’t particularly pretty.
As our mind then starts appreciating nature we paint things like flowers, puppies and a pair of mountains with the sun calling it a day between them so that we can one day look back and wonder what kind of hideous ideas we once had.
At this point however the majority of the kids give up the pastime as they find the ordeal of delineating the members of the feral life far too much or other pressures of the core curriculum leaves a perpetual strain on their artistic nerves.
At highly developed stages on the other hand we start depicting scenes from real life. We find out the modus operandi of perspective drawing inevitably in which there is a point in space that acts as a horizon where the lines meet. I bet everyone who has tried to do a sketch based on that principle has tried their hands on a railway station’s pencil description. The concept of converging of lines always reminds one of the railroads.
The human specimen’s kinship towards the railway station was well explained by what’s-his-name, I am at loss to recollect now. I on one occasion perused a prose written by that bloke. His stance is that the swamped areas in close proximity to his habitat appeared to him to be exactly like Venice. That is not germane to the issue however. He has mentioned in that that he had always found a railway station one of the most fascinating places on the earth.
I as a kid always found a railway station out of the world. It looked like there were wagons out there that can take you to a sort of paradise or some imaginary castle in Spain. And you have a ridged roof on top and trusses of sorts forming a fantastic pattern which in a perspective diagram looks like the magnitudes of the things proportionately dwindle as they go farther and farther. That sketch is much harder to portray than that of a suspension bridge for instance. I have never been able to complete my painting.
Anyway we ought to decide the point of view from which you sketch the station. I when of course was a kid, chose the view from a lofty point along the track which astonishingly was identical to the nearest minute to the view I got from the overpass I used to stand.
Then as I kept on looking it the station gradually warmed its way into my heart. I started visiting it quite often. I used to count the number of customers that join the queue, the amount of stairs on the crossing bridge which made me feel better. The best of all, there was a platform in that particular station where no trains arrived probably because t’was broken or something. That was my idea of seventh heaven to sit in an empty platform.
I invited a cherished chum of mine to that place once and from then I went there with him no less than twice a week. We would natter about life in a broad-spectrum and then he’d eventually ask me, ‘Why are you not up to your level this year?’
‘I have plenty of time to make it up’, I would tell him not being sure whether that’d be possible. ‘I can’t lose her, laddie.’
‘You have always been the class topper in school and suddenly you are doing terrible. Our teachers have started asking me about you’
‘What are they doing that for?’
‘They know that we are most excellent friends’
That is without a doubt a fact. Apart from a number of squashy topics we discussed how immense science is and what a gorgeous invention the train was. After hours of chatting we used to crush some betel nuts on our way home. Boy, I was mad then.
Railway stations also stand as one of the places where people think of new things. It was in a railway station that I got an idea that I must write a book and so do many other artists. They are romantic. They why would so many movies have to end in a railway station, mainly movies from the romantic genre? They teach us many different philosophies of life.
People do look at a railroad and compare it with life. A train is your life in which case all the passengers are the fellows you come to know. They have to leave when their stations arrive. The more you are idle the less you travel and the less you explore and learn. There are only a limited number of railroad junctions which are our opportunities. There are no ‘U’ turns. If we choose a path, that’s it. We won’t be able to steer our way to where we want to go. All trains can’t reach a particular destination. And all trains can’t travel long distances. In the same way all people are not equally successful. Nevertheless all people keep travelling. Roads seem to meet at an unknown place, so is our destiny. People who know what they are doing eventually reach their destiny. Our destiny being unknown the only prudent thing for us to do is enjoy the place where we are and make our passengers happy.
It is not the destination that matters. It is the journey. But we have to make sure we get the best of it, not looping about.
- Outside Patna’s Railway Station (beontheroad.com)