The great Indian railway saga
If visitors are barred from railway platforms, some things will never be the same again, says Sangeetha Devi. K
The Union Railway Minister wants to change the way we travel in trains. He is set to create a diktat that will keep Basanti outside the station and Jai in the train (Sholay), no more Maya trying to peer into each coach to find Dev (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna) and when Raj is leaving for London Simran cannot get onto the platform leave alone her father asking her to go with him (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge). In short, no more goodbyes, hugs and pailagoo on the platforms.
The increasing security threat at railway stations has made Lalu Prasad consider new ways to beef up safety.CCTVs and extra vigil notwithstanding, he is thinking of barring visitors on railway platforms. Will our railway stations be the same again?
"We are Indians, and travelling by train means we are overloaded with luggage. We have to carry five potlis, just in case we might need them. We aren't sure of the food and drink on board so we carry them along. Handling this luggage calls for help and the number of porters are fewer compared to the passengers. You take steep stairs to reach your platform, jostle for space and avoid pocket-pickers. When the luggage isn't screened, what's the point in restricting people? Whenever I've been to a railway station to receive someone, I've never found them. They've always found me," laughs ad professional Santha John. On a serious note, she cites the need for amenities for the elderly and physically challenged if visitors are barred on platforms. "If safety is an issue, why not make people pass through metal detectors?" she asks.
The cultural potpourri that's synonymous with our railway stations has provided enough fodder for movies and books. What would become of clichéd climaxes? There will be no tearful flashbacks shared with strangers on platforms, no love struck couple running to board a speeding train while being chased by the villain's men, and no last-minute happy endings like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.
"We frown and sigh when we realise that the film would invariably end at the railway station. But that's the stuff our movies are made of," says software engineer Anuradha Sridhar. Limit and screen the luggage for safety, she says.
"When I see families travelling with cutlery, large water cans and food items packed in large bags, I pray that they wouldn't be sitting next to me. Those huge bags take up all the luggage space. But besides that, it's nice to have someone accompany you to the train for emotional reasons. It's a feel good thing to wave goodbye to your family from the train," she adds.
Businessman Sandeep Nath foresees new problems if the restrictions come into force. He says, "The congestion will shift to the entrance of railway stations. The hugs, kisses and long farewells will cease at the entrance but think of the congestion there. We'll also need organised parking and more porters to carry luggage to the platforms from the parking lots. Once inside, it's a long wait for the train. You'll need to kill boredom by watching TV, reading or playing a game on the mobile phone. For that, seating arrangements have to be improved."
We'll have to wait and see if Lalu succeeds in keeping visitors at bay.
Until then, soak up the atmosphere.
A joint family coming to send off a student, the grandmother for the umpteenth time reminding him to check his ticket and luggage and goading him to eat well, and finally shedding tears as the train chugs out of the station may soon be things of the past.
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