Railway Station- Gateway to the Dream City: Bombay Central (Long Distance)
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This is lazy afternoon time. The trains generally arrive in the morning and depart in the evening. Some waiting passengers of the evening trains are scattered around the premise along with the mandatory vagabonds, hawkers and coolies. A still moment before the overwhelming rush. This station is one of the major gateways on the journey to the dream city. Outside the station is Bombay Central-Grant road area which is known for its mixed languages, religions and cultural ethos.
Bombay Central station. For some reason nobody calls it Mumbai central station except in official announcement. This is the long distance train section of the terminus. Trains to Gujarat and upper north depart from here. The station has a distinctively north Indian vibes coming from the waiting passengers. Designed by the British architect Claude Batley the station was inaugurated on 18th December 1930. The station was planned in order to rechannelise the long distant trains which were operating from the station at Colaba.
3 in the afternoon. These shots are taken from the first floor of the station, which house the retiring rooms and the offices. The first few shots are of the foyer. Top angle shot of the crowd scattered in the foyer. Some are waiting for the evening trains. Their class status is obvious in the fact that they have no other place in the city to wait for their scheduled time of departure. This reminds us of one of the newspaper photographs of a large crowd hurdled together with their meager belongings, at this very place during the communal riots of 1992-93. They were escaping the city which had unleashed a wrath against the minority community. But the train services were disrupted. Still they insisted on staying in the station compound as that seemed more secured a place than their own neighbourhoods. It is difficult to imagine that sense of desperation while looking at the present scene of tranquility. But the fact remains that in some sense, railways stations are a space more conducive to gender and class interactions and secular modernity, than our settlements. Bombay Central station is also the entry point of the migrants coming from the Northern India to the metropolis. An air of aspiration and uncertainty hangs over this station whenever a long distance train terminates here. The busy railway stations in India are also refuge to many homeless people - the beggars, urchins, madwomen, pickpockets are as expected and accommodated as the collies, passengers and hawkers. This video provides a glimpse of the Indian railways which is much more than a transport system. Some out of town passengers are sleeping in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Collies in red uniform are dotting the landscape. Some middle class people are moving around busily either towards the reservation counter or to the cargo section. Their body language carries a sense of purpose which is in contrast with that of the others. The food and magazine stalls are empty. It is amazing how easily people can curve out a private space of comfort within the public space.
Bombay Central Station