City Hangout – Second Class Waiting Hall, Gurgaon Railway Station
Where time slows.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Some places have a character so unique that the air feels saturated with a peculiar distinctness impossible to recreate elsewhere. They seem to exist outside the humdrum of the everyday world. One such space is the so-called second class waiting room in Gurgaon railway station in the Greater Delhi Region.
Time seems to hang here like a clock without handles—the lazy hours refuse to stir. This afternoon the hall is only partially crowded. A man on the bench is devouring Katil ka Badla, a novel. A woman is sleeping with her head slumped down on her knees. Another woman is staring at a huge sack beside her. And an elderly person has decided to make himself at home on the floor, wrapped up in a tatty blanket. These people seem like colored drawings of their real self— they barely move. Each probably has a train to catch, but for now is suspended in immobility.
It’s totally quiet. The silence is broken sometimes by the ringing of a mobile phone, the calling tune echoing through the hall. While the frequent train announcements blaring from the speaker are as good as white noise that you register only if you want to.
The waiting room’s walls are splashed with paintings and mosaic works. A broom-holding Gandhi is on one side, a steam engine on the other. The most panoramic work is a scenery of blue sky, white clouds and a clean-looking river—exactly the stuff impossible to see in this smoggy metropolis.
There’s also the wall-sized railway time table with names of nearby towns and faraway cities. Gazing upon this panel is evocative of all those journeys that are to start soon with or without you.
In addition, it’s thrilling to experience the passing of time in a place called waiting hall, a utility that won’t be needed if everything and everyone is running on time. (The “second class” prefix adds a touch of absurdness.) Come with a camera—you’ll see striking scenes of passengers waiting for their trains, frozen in postures and moods that you might want to capture for your Instagram handle.
A world of waiting