City Nature - Trees, Gurugram Railway Station

City Nature – Trees, Gurugram Railway Station

Platform arbour.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The evening sun is slinking into the distant west. The air in the immediate vicinity is powdery, either with dust, or with the gathering mist, or perhaps it is simply smog. A man in half-sweater is slouching by the railway tracks. Behind him, a Brobdingnagian tree, the trunk the size of a train compartment, is lording over the scene with its millions of leaves.

Will this banyan have a role in the tomorrow’s scheme of things?

Late last month the Prime Minister laid the foundation for revamping the Gurgaon railway station under the Amrit Bharat Station Scheme, a project in which 554 stations will be redeveloped at a cost of over 19,000 crores rupees. 300 crores are allotted to the Millennium City’s teeny-weeny station. The money will help erect a new station building (with many floors), plus roof plaza, cafés, multi-level car parking, and state-of-the-art security. Being so small compared to the furiously expanding city it serves, the station in Gurugram urgently needs an overhaul. One question lingers—will the station’s trees be allowed to share a part of its ambitious future?

The station is a sanctuary of sayedar darakht (shaded trees). It is arguably the richest in foliage among the many railway stations in the National Capital Region—though Delhi Cantt. railway station is also notable for its arbour, as well as the station in Sarai Rohilla. But the trees of Gurugram railway station command a separate stature. One graceful giant stands outside the station’s porch; its spherical verdure resembling a biennale-style art installation.

Within the station, platform 2-3 is home to a sprinkling of grand trees, the tallest and most dense of which is the aforementioned banyan, whose thick branches spread gently over the red-painted benches. On any afternoon, you might see passengers lying under its canopy of leaves — waiting for their express. Each platform tree shelters a similar habitat of humans and non-humans. Squirrels run about the trunks, so do armies of big-any makoras. The remote heights of the trees tremble with bird chirping.

In the beginning, this whole area—the station and its surroundings—-must have been full of similarly luscious trees. Today, the handful that stand are souvenirs of what is lost.