Delhiwale: Train Travel Souvenirs
Some trains are moving. Some trains are stationary. Some passengers here and there, walking with their suitcases and children. And suddenly, a locomotive whistles.
The sounds of trains have always evoked the mysteries of travel and escape; This is particularly true when one lives in a seemingly endless city like Delhi. However, these sounds have become rarer in the times of the coronavirus pandemic. There were no passenger trains in operation during the weeks of closure (except those carrying migrants from their adoptive cities to their home districts). And only a few have worked again. Gone are the days when ‘Delhiwales’ could on impulse book a ‘Tatkal’ on a Shatabdi to Agra or Kalka as the weekend approached. One is forced to deal with all the tedious questions: how crowded will the coaches be? How high are the chances of getting the infection in them?
Until we can get back to the appearance of a normal hour, there is a place from which you can experience the thrill of traveling by train without even entering the train station. This is the bridge that crosses the New Delhi railway station. The one destiny was briefly mentioned in these pages a few years ago, but now, in these extraordinary times, it has taken on a deeper meaning. Generally full of traffic, the bridge has a wide sidewalk that allows the pedestrian to spend a lot of time looking towards the station. The platforms are as close to here as if you were standing on the catwalks of the station itself; You can even see the resident rats.
The observation deck also offers a panoramic view of almost the entire train station. In the late afternoon, you can clearly see the destination plates on the red air-conditioned carriages of a train, which is the Rajdhani Express bound for Mumbai. And look, there, a group of porters is dragging a cart. On another train, a woman is sitting by the window, her head resting on the bars and her face masked.
And now the air is filled with the echo of an announcement from the train station: the arrival of So-and-So Express on the So-and-So platform. This computerized female voice is so familiar, and one has heard it so many times in so many train stations, that it instantly evokes those carefree days when we lived without the sword of the coronavirus hanging over our heads. The moment painfully brings back memories of a life we have lost due to the ongoing pandemic.
A few minutes later, the Rajdhani begins to leave.