Malleswaram Railway Station is not merely a railway station: it is a station of mind and memories, of childlike wide-eyed wonder, of teenage meandering, adult and eld nostalgia. It is the stuff memoirs are made of.
Little about the Malleswaram station has changed in its relationship with me over the last 30 years or so. The gigantic trees, which have absorbed the humongous amounts of choking smoke seem rooted in time with their lungs still intact.
The only perceptible change is the architecture of the station building which now sports a more “modern” look and the platform which was one long stretch of sand and small stones is now a concrete aberration.
Malleshwaram railway station has an experience of entering an entirely new world. In many ways, it still stands as one of the few remnants of the spirit of Bygone Bangalore, an experience which is lost forever and lingers only in memory. It reminds me of days when time wasn’t at a premium and you could still find joy in doing Nothing. It is also the station where I boarded the very first train of my life, a monstrous steam engine that threatened to flatten me as it chugged slowly into the station.
The stretch of passenger shelter roofs is but a recent construction. Trees once stood there and we’d stood, sat, and frolicked under them with cricket paraphernalia, frisbee, chips, and roasted nuts. My high school and college days saw me warm the cold stone benches with hours of reading time. Evenings saw couples whisper sweet nothings not to mention the other unmentionable things they did to each other. It was also the place where my corrupt and depraved friends smoked, chewed on and spit out zarda paan and when it was sufficiently night, sneaked beer down their throat. It wasn’t the “age” to do all those things, our elders repeatedly cautioned us but that precisely was where the fun lay, Malleswaram railway station was our benevolent facilitator.
This facilitator discriminates against none: today I see the same experiences but through the antics, behaviour of others. Believe me when I say the place has its own silent method of enforcing a quaint sort of discipline on its visitors. The said antics and behaviour in all my hallowed years is almost consistent: it never gets out of hand, the younger visitors never cross the line of public decency and older visitors who look at this nod their heads with the typical tut tut tilt while guys my age mentally delight in these and want to join, but cannot. So, carry on boys!
This entry will be incomplete if I omit mentioning Ramanna’s idly shop. I’ll not dwell on the great taste of the food he serves there but on how his shop has become intertwined with the Malleswaram Railway Station Experience itself. His menu is severely limited: idlis, vadas, khara bath, and shavige bath (vermicelli for the uninitiated). Friendships were made and broken, conspiracies to murder villainous politicians hatched, strategies to help each other during examinations carefully worked out, plots to ensnare nubile young things discussed… Ramanna’s eatery fuelled all of these.
Last weekend saw me visit the Northside hospital right opposite the railway station. I’d some spare time on hand that I initially spent cursing the April sun assaulting me. I entered the railway station more to find relief from the heat than with any poetic yearning for nostalgia. To my surprise, it brought forth this entry.
Cross-posted in Desicritics.