We are back home after 8 years after a round of globe-trotting – my 7-year-old daughter had never even seen our small aashiana. It is a modest 2 BHK flat in a relatively small society sans all jazz – doesn’t even have lifts, swimming pool, club house et al. It has a lovely view of the nearby railway station; is surrounded by greenery and quiet environs.
I was anxious to note my daughter’s reaction – I certainly wanted her to like the new place and be able to relate to it as our ‘home’. I spoke to her after a couple of days and got some interesting responses from her.
Am not sure you would regard the periodic rhythm of trains flashing by as a nuisance. It wasn’t as bad as having an Airport near your home. In fact it wasn’t all that close though one could see the train flash by from your bedroom’s window. The reverberations of wheels smashing on the rails too aren’t felt. Possibly what is very noticeable particularly in the nights is the sound of the hooter as the train crosses the station. Everything else being quiet it attracts attention and is followed by a rhythmic tone of rail coaches passing a position.I had returned home after years but it didn’t disturb my sleep – it wasn’t an essential ingredient either. But my daughter noticed it a bit in the initial days. She didn’t feel it was bad – she loved the greenery and the trains whizzing by. She just worried on whether she will be able to sleep well. I was able to easily reassure her on that. Man is but a creäture of habits – I reminded her of the scenes from Kamal Haasan’s epic comedy – Pushpaka Vimana. Kamal is lucky enough to get to stay in a 5 star hotel but cannot sleep at night without the noise of a movie running in a nearby theatre. He in fact records the ‘noise’ and play its back in his hotel room to be able sleep peacefully.
So trains have a rhythm and it seeps into ones life. I don’t quite need to look at the clock, the trains running in the morning and evening between the twin cities of Pune and Mumbai are quite punctual and one knows the time by their movement. It sets up ones routine as well and they act like miniature alarms reminding you of the activity that is due.
My family is not quite as enamoured as I with trains – I just love the view and the convenience of having a station near home. Still they humour me and go along with my moods. Rains, foggy weather, misty mornings and the trains chugging by too are a great view. You get to see it best when you are at the platform. If nothing else the train moments in late evening as the Sun sets and we can spot the trains and tracks in the gloaming light is quite an experience as well. The station used to have a small Tea-Stall where you get a hot cup of Tea and bhajiyas – sadly it has disappeared now; possibly the contractor wasn’t making enough money from it.
Trains can indeed regulate daily patterns of life – a charming story was narrated to the said effect by Khushwant Singh in narrating the daily life of rural folks in the small village of Mano Majra, that was located close the Indo-Pak border in Punjab. He devoted a chapter in the novel ‘A Train to Pakistan’ to describe how the villagers attuned their activities to the passage of the trains, most of them never stopped at the small sleepy station.
And I love the convenience of the local trains – it’s the easiest route to reach the city and of course to make a quick trip to Mumbai. In fact of late due to inclement weather during the monsoons there have been instances of rock slides in the ghats section – safety measures implemented to address the issue have led to prolonged delays in traffic movement on the Expressway. Eventually this has led to a surge in rail traffic as commuters find it more convenient to take the train journey and avoid being stuck in a traffic jam on the highway.
The station has lost a bit of its charm though – the neighbourhood has become busier as big apartments have come up adding a bit to the noise and traffic that comes with such growth. The station had some spare space that is being used to drive cargo movement particularly I guess its cement consignments. The trucks queue up to manage this demand as well.
We even heard of plans whereby certain trains headed to Mumbai could start and terminate their trip from the station as well. Thankfully that hasn’t quite materialized yet – gradually the ambience is changing. Well it is never meant that time will stand still – things are bound to change in the coming years. Till then one should count ones blessings and enjoy the romance of trains whizzing by and as I mentioned at the start, never even stopping at a sleepy little station on the Indian Railway network.