City Hangout – The Bridge Over the Railway Station, New Delhi
The bridge of escape.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Confess it. Even if you love Delhi, there are times when you want to get out of the city. This conflicting emotion is most intensely experienced on the road bridge over the New Delhi Railway Station.
Go any evening and stand over the bridge’s pedestrian track facing the station’s platforms. The horizon is framed by the soft outlines of Connaught Place’s business towers. Underneath is the rail station. The tracks that lead to the station intersect each other like the channels of a river. On each platform: passengers, dogs, beggars, coolies, drug addicts, labourers, and tea vendors. A passing rail engine gives out a long wail, as if it were finding the city oppressive. Indeed, sometimes the city makes us feel like a prisoner without even an escape route. In such a crisis situation, how can we delete Delhi from our lives?
Just look down from the bridge.
The trains are leaving the station one after another at irregular intervals. The signboards on their blue coaches mark them for destinations such as Benares, Ernakulam, Ajmer, Vizag, and Kalka.
These names bring relief. All one has to do is get into one of these trains. Gradually, as the idea of leaving the city acquires solidity, the feelings soften. A glance at the Connaught Place towers, our constant companions in times good and bad, strikes a chord in the heart.
Also, look at the life on the bridge: a saffron-robed sadhu smoking a chillum; a man in torn clothes whose face is wet with tears; a middle-aged pedestrian stopping by a stall of soft-porn magazines; two boys sitting together; a bearded man looking down sombrely at the trains; barefoot lungi clad labourers hauling loaded carts up the bridge. Here you witness Delhi in all its beauty and tragedy. The city engrosses you, and when this happens there is still the comfort of knowing that a train will be leaving for faraway Ernakulam.
The consolation of departures