City Landmark – Peepal Tree, Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station
Beyond train watching.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is an old city with many katras and kuchas. Each kucha has many gallis. Each galli has many havelis and homes. And each home is as intricate as any old city with its own domestic katras and kuchas.
Such is the comprehensiveness of this peepal tree. A giant landmark standing on platform No. 1 of central Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station, the peepal is without doubt the grandest sight at the rail terminus. It is taller than Route Relay Cabin, the three-storey concrete edifice that soars just behind it. In fact, the building’s staircase runs perpendicular to the tree, as if it were expressly built to mount the tall leafy giant.
The tree starts its long journey upwards (and sidewards) from a thick broad trunk, which bifurcates into a series of branches. Each of these branches have fashioned itself after the parent trunk and bifurcates into several more branches. Everyone of those branches, in turn, splits into sub-branches. Indeed, this tree is like the sacred Ganga — a single stream in the Himalayas culminating into the Bay of Bengal as a latticework of tributaries.
No doubt, there must be other rail stations in the Delhi region with extraordinary trees. Gurugram railway station has quite a few of them, and among them the densest is a banyan on platform No. 2. That tree is a delight, not just for humans. Squirrels race with one another along its narrow, twisty sub-branches. The foliage constantly swells with bird sounds, but you can barely spot the birds in the dark leafy jungle.
The banyan of Gurgaon station is majestic. But this peepal at Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station has its majesty enhanced by its extraordinarily lean if twirly grace.
Since the tree stands far beyond the limits of the station’s tin shed, it receives direct sunshine, and at certain times in the afternoon, it turns into a kaleidoscope of ever-changing iridescence. Winter mornings are ideal for lounging under the sun-entangled canopy.
The peepal is so huge that some of its branches extend almost towards the rail tracks. Centuries ago, the Yamuna flowed along the path of these very tracks. Can this peepal be ancient enough to have stood on the banks of the river that has now drifted east? This chilly evening, a train to Kurukshetra is waiting to depart. After some minutes, the only human left in the vicinity is restroom attendant Mr Narender. Stationed outside the “Pay-and-Use Deluxe Toilet”, his face is turned away from the tree.
Peepal you should meet