Trip Report: Ruskin Bond, a night in railway station: a romance of sorts

Posted on February 10, 2014


You know Ruskin Bond, don’t you? The adorable grandfather-like figure whose works you have read in school or picked up from your friend’s collection? No? You have heard about him at least? The Anglo-Indian who preferred to stay in his abode by the Himalayas rather than retreat to England after Independence?

No? Not a problem. I will tell you.

Ruskin Bond is an author with a simple yet appealing way of writing prose that makes you want to read more of his work. Through his diction, you feel his emotions capture you. Well, they do for me. It all started in middle school, it was a non-detailed story, The Hidden Pool, as part of our curriculum. The story was about three friends, and an English kid (Laurie, Bond writing as first person) and a year of how they bonded. How the trio became the thickest of friends, celebrating and cherishing their camaraderie. The story ends with Laurie going back to native land, his friends bid farewell at the railway station and darkness engulfs him and the country.

Later, in high school we had this short story of Bond – The Woman on Platform 8. Needless to say, the word ‘platform’ and an illustration of railway station made me read the book at my own pace, cut off from what my teacher tried to explain. It was about a boarder who was waiting for his train at Ambala late in the night when he is befriended by a lady, a mother in many forms.

I never had the liberty of travelling alone in the night ever through school. The first occasion was in college. I never had the chance to wait for a train late in the night too, in a lonely corner of a platform on a winter’s night. Bond left an indelible impression. I wanted to know how it felt like to spend a night in the station, and to make it better I wanted to read Ruskin Bond while I was at it.

It was in December last year (2013), winter was gradually setting in. I had just purchased two books of Bond – on friendship & bonding and romance & love – from Flipkart. That long wait was almost coming to an end. I booked a ticket till Daund on the Madras Mail (no CSTM-PUNE quota on this train) and a return by the Deccan Queen. I got done with work and reached Dadar 15 minutes before expected arrival, with excitement creeping gradually. My lower berth was occupied by a lady and I got a side lower in exchange, not that I had any complaints.

At Kalyan, a big gang of Tamilians headed to Madras from Shirdi boarded and a lengthy conversation ensured that my proficiency in the Madras version of the Dravidian language had not fallen one bit.

I slept for a couple of hours, automatically waking up as we were entering Pune on platform number five. It was a near-elusive hunt to find tea made with milk rather powder. There was just one vendor on platform one who was serving milk-tea. The beverage is the medicine to keep me running, and prevent me from falling off to sleep.

Pune at that time was in chills; an app on my phone told me it was 10 degrees Celsius. I found a cozy bench, just before it was grabbed by one of the travelers who were bunking in the station for the night.

I opened my copy of ‘No Man is an Island: Stories of Friendship and Bonding’ and started from where I left midway. I skipped reading the excerpt from The Hidden Pool, I wish to only read it once in a few years to not dilute the enjoyment in reading it.

I noticed, among many others, Dadar-bound Madras Super, Konark, Hussain Sagar, Chalukya, Goa, Maharashtra Expresses but was engrossed in reading the book; lifting my head up once in a while to see the trains enter and go out.

Coming from Madras, I am not exactly trained to bear such temperatures. But I was lost in my world, doing things I love: reading books, sipping tea and seeing trains. Ok, I was wrapped in a jacket though.

I did not note down loco numbers nor did I take photographs. It was just about enjoying myself and probably pen it down later.

As countless number of trains – freight, passenger and EMUS – passed I finished reading the book at around 5:30. Realising I have a reserved ticket I stayed in the waiting room, which was very warm and caught up on some sleep.

Full Monty on the Queen

This was my first full ride on the Deccan Queen, and the legacy of the train just makes it more exciting. Like the diligent railfan I walked the entire length of the rake before settling into my action-side emergency window seat.

Won't be long before a WAP-7 takes the WCAM-3's place.

Won’t be long before a WAP-7 takes the WCAM-3’s place.

The sun light started taking over only after 8:30 am, and I was a frozen chicken thawing in that mild warmth. Bhor Ghats was a splendid sight in that light with the sun kissing your face. A pair cutlets and tea was gobbled down in the process and after Kalyan I preferred to sit in the dining car.

Perks of having an emergency window !

Perks of having an emergency window !

I kept sipping tea after tea until Dadar, from where I was told service is shut to finish the accounts.

Customary ghat picture

Customary ghat picture.

As I got down at CST, it was welcome back to reality after being lost in my own fantasy for the night.

I will do it now, I will do it when I am older too: the feeling of reading a book you love in a railway station through the night is one hell of an experience. Try it out.

Probably with Ruskin Bond for company!