Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The other India

......not in distant UP or Bihar but at our very own Kurla train terminus. I was there last night, to pick up my mom, returning from Kanpur on the Lucknow Express. Suffice it to say I felt transported to Mulayam Singh country standing in Mumbai itself.

Now of course large swathes of this city are not 'first world' at all. Or even second world (if something like that exists). But when it comes to a public amenity such as a railway station in a major metro, there are certain minimum standards you expect.

CST, Bombay Central, even Dadar - they're not fancy but they're fairly functional. A station like CST was built over a hundred years ago and there's scarcely any room for expansion. Yet the local and through train terminus somehow co-exist and bear enormous passenger loads.

By contrast, Kurla terminus is exclusively for long-distance trains. It was built from scratch but God knows which planner/ architect was employed by the railways for the job. Its existence almost justifies 250 years of British rule in India. Had they not been here, perhaps the rest of our stations too would look like tabelas.

The first problem with Kurla terminus is that it is in the middle of nowhere. Meaning not enough signage - whichever side you approach it from. But that is nothing - wait till you actually get there.

You will somehow have to squeeze past the taxis and rickshaws piled up at the narrow exit-cum-entrance to park your car. A vast ubad khabad maidan with piles of rubbish where rats the size of 2 week old kittens stroll languidly. A housing complex for the upwardly mobile of said species complete with picturesque garbage dump and 'tracks' view!

Enter the station 'complex' which is basically a couple of platforms under tin roof sheds and a large cement and concrete hall. A kind of 'waiting area' where rows upon rows of sheet clad bodies are laid out in various stages of slumber. Waiting for a train? Or simply waiting it out till they find accomodation in Mumbai. You can't really tell.

Onto the platform. The stench hits you, full on. A giant unwashed and uncared for smell; a lone uniformed employee valiantly spraying the tracks with pressurised water. Standing there in a pool of self-created sludge.

The already-narrow platform is half occupied with giant gunny bags barely leaving room for alighting passengers. Two trains pull in at around the same time - both over 2 hour late. There is absolute chaos as a mass of humanity spills out of the station and tumbles into the waiting tangle of transport. No traffic policeman in sight...

The first taste of Mumbai for folks from the hinterland. The dirt, dust, chaos and lack of amenities perhaps make them feel right at home!

I entered the stationmaster's office with the intention of writing a complaint/ suggestion. Can't the railways at least level the ground outside the station to provide proper parking? I mean, you're charging us for it!

A tired middle aged man looked up and,"Madam, kya karein.. sab unplanned hai. Naya building banega." Kab? I was last at Kurla terminus 6 years ago and nothing has changed in the interim period. A tiny rat scampered across his room as we were having this conversation. Simultaneously the train we were expecting pulled into the station and I abort my 'improve India' mission. Just glad to pick up mom and head home!

The thing is...
Building clean, functional railway stations is not rocket science. There's the Delhi metro of course but also just a few kms from Kurla, the example of New Bombay. Vashi, Belapur and the like. They're 'local' of course, but living proof of stations built to some kind of plan. And an improvement on the British zamaane ka model - with better design, construction quality and hygiene standards.

You keep clean, it stays clean. You build a cowshed, it stays that way. And gets worse...

But then Shree Laloo Prasad is too busy giving lectures at IIM A and Harvard to bother about such minor irritants. And the media - so full of discussion and debate on the need for a second airport in Mumbai - could hardly care less.

At the very least they should stop calling this horror 'Lokmanya Tilak' train terminus. Now that, would be a real sign of respect.

P.S. I am leaning towards Nokia N80 as my next phone. Does it take decent night shots? Any N80 owners with views/ opinions - please do get in touch!


  1. Its the Story of All Railway Stations!! Does Lalu care to Improve the Stations. Just hav a picture of Air Port and Railway station! The huge difference. We need Good Infrastructure Before Dreaming to become Shangai Or Singapore.

  2. There is of course, the pathetic lack of bus service to that station as well.

    Oh, and why DO you need to drive a car and waste space on the roads? There is perfectly decent and efficient mass transit available.

  3. as you mentioned its defintely not rocket science to build clean,hygenic and planned stations.

    even as you mentioned in delhi itself,
    you can see vast majority of diffrence betweek delhi metro and new delhi railway station,just like the ones in mumbai u mentioned.
    as for lalu ,the less he works and assigns more to IAS officers better the improvement.I wish he doesnt take much responsibilty himself :D

  4. The N series is good at taking day shots. I got a N 70 music edition has flash light but it's not strong enough to take a landscape photograph. I tried it at night and its not good. In the daytime its as good as a proper camera which would cost somewhere in Rs 10-14 K range and quality.

  5. go for n73, it has got a gr8 camera

  6. I made up a video using N80 here:
    Maybe this helps you decide. The best way to figure out would be check flickr images from the phones you want too :)


  7. Well 'Parivartan' is the thing that most of us dont like :) And ur jump from 3310 to 6670 was not a mearly a jump. It was huge leap as far a usability & functionality of cell is concerned which caused initial uneasiness.

    I recently bought a N80. I looked towards options like N73 , 5300 Xpress music and a few other ( I am a nokia fan for sure)
    Well its a decent type model with alomst every damn feature.The only draw back that I found out till now is that its lil bulkier and can cause inconvience if you try to fit in your Jeans pocket.

    you can check these ones out ..



    As far as taking pic in night ... even good digicam like sony and cannon fail in bad/low light. So dont expect miracles form any of ur cell phone cams.

    If you are goin for it ... take the black one .. it looks awesome.

    Market seems to have shortage of N80. I had to hunt for several shop before I found one.

  8. Rashmi
    Well, Lalu and compnay did not know way back in 1990 that a fiery blogger with a soft name Rashmi will show up to pick up maa. else they would have done a good job. (Humor!)

    Suno, it is NOT POSSIBLE to design for everything. You can't forese a lot of things.

    We design road for 20 yers horizons but in some cases, they had reahced 20 years expected capacity in 3/4 yers.....belive me!

    Accha kiya tum ne complaint kar di. Hum bhi Kanpuriya hi hoon and whenevr I will be in Kurla - I will thank u...

  9. Rashmi, thankfully you had your own car. If you had to take a cab/ rickshaw to/from Kurla Terminus (I have done it several times), well then that can be another blog entry altogether! Anyway, thanks for blogging on this insult to what is otherwise a fairly efficient Raiway system in Mumbai. (The tabela comparison was a gem -- I always used to wonder what the station resembles... now I know!)

  10. Feels like a world away from Altamount Road, then?!
    And I thought it's India shining every which way you look at it.
    No wonder the dept of tourism's punch line says it all : Incredible! India

  11. CraP!!!

    Shree Laloo Prasad is too busy giving lectures at IIM A and Harvard..

    is like accusing the Indian cricket team of not performing because os Advts..Both of which are random and baseless.

    Laloo does not need like10 months to prepare for the Speeches, At the most it takes hin a week(in all) for Harvard and 3 Days for IIM A.

    Also, I hope u understand the fact that he doesnt have to come to each station and pick up a broom and clean up the station himself..

    And for once lets flabbergast the man.. He is trying to improve the system (Which is why he got called to, Harvard and IIM, Btw)..

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