City Hangout – Rail Track Twilight, Barakhamba Flyover
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The rail tracks seem to extend to the point where the earth touches the sky. Though the earth is pitch dark at this moment in the evening. The sky however has disintegrated into various colours, each shade separated from the other, as if arranged one upon another. The dominantly dark blue is upon a band of light blue, blue is upon orange, orange is upon flaming red. And now an express train enters the scene. It chugs along the tracks, towards the elusive horizon, like a man rushing to claim the rumoured pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Such are the 6.45 pm impressions you might gather while standing on the west side of the Barakhamba flyover in central Delhi. This vantage point directly overlooks the Shivaji Bridge railway station. Down below, you have a clear view of the six pairs of rail tracks approaching the station’s four platforms. This station is among the city’s smaller stops that hosts the suburban trains. Sometimes long-haul expresses are made to stop here until they are designated their arrival platform in the next destination, just a few minutes ahead—the all-important New Delhi railway station.
Despite it being the capital’s heart, the perspective is of an open countryside. This feeling of spaciousness is puzzling, since the city here makes no attempt to hide itself. You clearly see the highrises that circle the Connaught Place shopping district, including the giant national flag fluttering in the Central Park. The tall Lalit Hotel looms next to the bridge. The Bhartiya Janata Party’s central office building seems an arm’s reach away. The bridge is a walking distance from cramped Old Delhi. Yet the area feels secluded. All because of the unhindered view of the sky, that lurks beyond the Shivaji Bridge station. The vastness is so huge that it seems to swallow everything into its nothingness.
The unfolding twilight is the most dramatic. The sky colors gradually start to drip into each other. It’s like as if some supernatural being is artfully making an abstract painting more abstract by rubbing the wet canvas with invisible hands. Soon, it’s all dark. The city lights, including the red signals on the rail tracks, pale against the sky’s starless blackness. Some minutes later, one more train chugs in. It slowly comes to a halt at the station. The engine gives a long wail. The sound travels around, and dies.