City Landmark – Red Arches, Ghaziabad Railway Junction
Station no. 1.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Ooh La La! It is looking like some glass-domed international airport. Even so, the dream building shall still have daily departures not to Charles de Gaulle or John F. Kennedy, but to Khurja and Katihar.
One weekend the railway ministry set the Twitter on a Shatabdi Express mode by releasing an image of the “proposed design of the to-be redeveloped New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS).”
But among the existing stations in the big wide Delhi region, which one’s the prettiest? Surely not the current NDLS, as dull as a car parking, Old Delhi station? May be. Another contender is the railway station in Gurgaon. It has an assortment of most stunning trees —each as huge as a jungle—on platform 2. Plus, its waiting hall is full of romance and wanderlust with giant boards painted with train names in navy blue. (The hari mirchi pakoris sold on platform 1 in the pre-pandemic era were super yummy.) But the station’s extreme smallness belittles Gurgaon’s status as a buzzy metropolis.
A discerning railway station aesthete might actually vote for the colonial-era rail junction in Ghaziabad. Opened in 1883, it is only slightly younger than Old Delhi station (1864). As the No. 1 choice, the Ghaziabad edifice is adorned with lovely red-bordered arches running along in a loop, like ripples of a sonata. It also has murals depicting Indian history. The valiant Rani Lakshmi Bai is fighting the Brits with her son tied to her back.
The junction’s primary beauty focuses on the original station on tracks 3-4 where a single platform is positioned between two rail lines. This afternoon a worker is sweeping the floor against the massive backdrop of the signature arches. Three shafts of daylight are falling on him from the sides. The dust trapped in the beams is glowing into gold grains, slowly stirring. Suddenly, an express towards Aligarh interrupts this momentary artwork.
The station’s newer extensions are not remarkable, but they are the best vantage points to view its better parts (just as one enjoys Taj Mahal more from some distance away than being inside it). Try to go in the evening. Station yourself on the humdrum platform 2 and watch the sun sinking slowly behind the old arches. And then turn around to see the red arches getting reflected in the glass jars of the tea-biscuit stalls. Beyond beautiful.