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An hour at the Railway Platform

An hour at the Railway Platform

Last month, I was scheduled to board the train from Shoranur railway station to Chennai Central as my grandfather had been seriously admitted to a hospital there. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the passengers are required to arrive at the station at least an hour before for screening and other protocols. I took a taxi and reached the station at 8 o'clock in the evening. There were many policemen to guide the incoming and outgoing passengers. Before the lockdown, whenever I had been at that station there was a great rush at the ticket counter. But on that day, just opposite to it, the counter was closed. Some trains are running, and ticket counters are also there but not the same as they used to be.

After screening and other procedures, I occupied a seat on a bench on the platform. It was very difficult to keep social distancing, there were four passengers already on that bench, including me, five. I just looked all around me, I saw many passengers here and there. None of them have the same state of mind. Some of them were going off to see their dear and near ones and some of them were leaving their dear and near ones and moving to a distant place. Some of them are in a very happy mood and some of them are very sad. Actually, a railway station is a mini replica of our country. In other words, here we can see a symbol of national integrity where Aadavan from Tamilnadu, Suradeep Banerjee from West Bengal, Mallu Singh from Punjab, and Manoj Mohan from Kerala talk, laugh and gossip together without a common mother tongue.  I think a railway station is an important place because here we can see people from all sections and all parts of society.

Just after a few minutes, a lady and her son came there with their heavy luggage. From the first impression, I assumed that he was a naughty one. The naughty kid just finished a banana and carelessly threw the skin on the platform. Within seconds a young girl maybe a college student put her best heel on it and went for a somersault. That scene was really fun for the travelers but not for that girl. She looked around for the little boy who was responsible for that incident. He left his mother and just vanished as if he were a tool in the hands of a magician. In the meanwhile, we heard the announcement from the railway. The lady sharpened her ear when announcements were made. We could hear announcements in all languages at the railway station. The lady called me and asked about the announcement, her language was Tamil. Though I understand the language speaking was a problem. Yet I somehow manage it.

Although one or two tea stalls were being opened at the station, with the current COVID scenario, they were not functioning well. Only a few snacks were available there. In front of the waiting room, just near one tea stall, I could see an emotional scene, a mother is crying, and her daughter also wipes tears from her eyes. Mother started talking to me and I too introduced myself. Later I came to know that her daughter was leaving for her husband’s home.

Some people were waiting in front of the inquiry offices to get information about how to get back to their homes. We came to know that they were from Uttar Pradesh and had been in distress for the last two months. As the lockdown kept extending, neither they got any job, nor stayed there. They were informed by the railway authorities that free train service was not available at that moment, the passenger trains were already full and AC compartments were extremely high priced. I felt pity for them but what to do?

We all waited impatiently for the arrival of the train, ultimately, the West Coast Express bound for Chennai arrived at the platform. Without any difficulty, I entered the compartment. Within a few minutes, the guard has blown the whistle. Slowly the train started moving and now the station looked somewhat deserted.

Without any doubt, we can say that our railways make long-distance travel more comfortable at cheaper rates. It not only reduced distances between states but also cut the geographical isolation of the peoples and brought them closer to each other. Right before the outbreak of coronavirus, millions of people were traveling by railways day by day for picnics, pilgrimage, business, education, and many other purposes. Railways have passenger trains for ordinary people, express and mail for the middle class, super-fast and air-conditioned for the more affluent, and goods trains for carrying goods. Railways play a major role in the advancement and progress of a nation. In times of natural disasters, their services are laudable. Railways act as the arteries of our country, its importance can be revealed from the fact that it has a separate minister as well as a separate budget.

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