17 December 2005
100 years of Howrah Railway Station
The Howrah railway station is celebrating its centenary this month/year. It completed 100 years of functioning on 1 december. I have got many mixed memories of the station. The initial ones are of fear and amazement. I must have been very young when I first passed through it and the size and incomprehensible chaos of it frightened me! It was just a transiting station for me. So actually it was the fear of a small town boy of his first big city. To top it all the train which I was supposed to be travelling was, hold your breath, 22 hours late! Believe me it happens on those trains which are coming all the way from Trivandrum/Cochin to Guwahati and are even worse on their return journey. The second time I was there I was a young teen (eh!) and I seemed to enjoy it. What really me amazed me that all the chaotic 21 platforms ended on a dead end of a vast and even more chaotic terminus. It was the first terminus I had seen. I had always thought of platforms as two ended things - a mere transitory spaces in this complex network of Indian Railways. I wondered, rather naively, how does the train go ahead of Howrah?! One of the most remarkable descriptions of the Howrah stations which I have read is in 'The Shadow Lines' by Amitav Ghosh. After reading that piece I began to see the human angle of this gigantic railway terminus which to me till then seemed rather impersonal. My affair with this station continued when I flew for the first time (!) to Calcutta and then immediately after that landed up in the General Compartment of train heading to BBSR at the Howrah station! I felt a queer sense of achievement when I learned that It has indeed finished 100 years! Ofcourse now I know how the trains go beyond Howrah railway station - they just change thier direction and the engine starts pulling at the reverse end!