The cold evening breeze sweeps the leftover afternoon heat away, something that does not require going outdoors to be sensed. But people do. To taste the sensation of pleasant. This curious junction of hot sun and cold breeze with the resulting pleasantness is temporary; it alters with time. What comes shortly after is only more pleasant. The cooler draft becomes a conciliatory benevolent oppressor to the gradually receding afternoon heat. I choose the quaint train station as a space to experience these phenomena of nature’s evening play.
I pass by the reading area, filled with people busy on their phones outside the train station, and walk over to the ticket counter to get registered for a traveling pass. I’m staying at my uncle’s spare flat in a small town. I’m looking for a place to rent in the city. A travel pass to commute for house-hunting will do. It’s an hour-long journey. I don’t particularly mind living in the town as I’ve lived here before, and I’m familiar with everything it has to offer, of which this peaceful late-afternoon hangout is one.
The station isn’t very big. It has four rails, two platforms that end abruptly onto loose stones and shrubbery, and a general store and rest area on each platform. Just as one would expect of a small town with an identity because of the big cities, it is situated between, though unmistakably not without its idiosyncrasies. I walk along towards the end of the platform, where a small trail opens down onto a new tar road connecting back to town through an area of thick woods with a stinking sewer stream. The woods were insignificant, ergo invisible to me a few years ago as I took the old road back to town. This spot was where we stopped halfway down the old road to play on the protruding roots of an ancient Banyan tree that seemed like it had lived there forever. The old road was a slope of concrete bordered with wild plants, grass, and garbage that branched off precisely from the middle of the station. New wild plants and grass have long since taken it over, and the platform exit is covered with bricks and paint. Behind the second platform are small groups of slum dwellers living in tents with the rails as neighbors. There is a short wall of shrubbery behind the settlement that surrounds an open grassy area at the foot of the big hill of the town. The hill is a regular climb for the locals and visitors alike, who encounter the sight of a train circling them from the peak of the big hill, at least once every climb.
There are no trains in sight. The seating benches are all disparately occupied by small groups of people who came together. The station shop vendors keep an eye on them, ready to overwhelm them with a hypnotic stare that would draw them to the store. After a long, slow lunch, the small shop vendors partake in the usual afternoon siesta. With the approaching cool of the evening wind, as more crowds start buzzing in, the shops come to life again. I pass these shops on my way to the train station.
Two men are strolling along the new tar road, deep in conversation. Locals, by their look. They meet to talk about breakfast and local news at the train station. Where the platform grows terminally closer to the steep drop onto the small open area of the new tar road, two older women in nightgowns lounge on a bench talking in half-swallowed syllables. With his hands folded back, a man watches the sun as it plots a grand dip behind the big hill. Four stray dogs pass by on the platform across in a single file, attempting to smell the one before each, which results in the straight line they move in. A group of three young girls, seated impatiently on one of the platform benches, are making vigorous animated inaudible conversations.
I have to bend forward a little to descend the high platform onto the rough path and onto the new road, which turns and points toward the town. I pass by a man parking his motorcycle beside a transmission pole. I spot fellow walkers on the new road hurrying towards where they are headed. The new road slants downward into the thickets of greenery and leads to the sidelines of the suburbs; the big hill by then forms an umbrella with its shadow over the heads.
There is no platform 9 3⁄4 here. No brick wall to run through and transport into Hogwarts. It is magical because I made it so. I allowed myself to become a part of the hill, the dogs, the platform, and the people and create the imageries that I can magically transport to even after I have found myself the rented apartment and have moved to the big city.
Author: Anagha Deshpande
[Visual Art; Symbiosis International University; Photography]
Illustration/Image/Graphics: Anagha Deshpande