All through my childhood and teenage, our small family used pass through Nizammudin Station. It was our halt between trains, from Rourkela to Punjab and vice versa on our way back. Sometimes it would be bright summer at Nizammudin, the hot sun roasting Mamman, Baba and me; at other times it would be freezing cold, with us layering ourselves with as many clothes as we could, but still chilled to the bones. The Rourkela to Punjab wait was a long evening, the Utkal Kalinga Express came in at afternoon and Chattisgarh Express left late at night; the Punjab to Rourkela wait was a long morning, Chattisgarh Express came early morning and Utkal Kalinga Express left late afternoon. On both those halts Mamman would sit on platform chairs and Baba would take me to Delhi to show me monuments and places. My discovery and understanding of Delhi started from Nizammudin.
I must have been seven or eight years old when one cold morning we got down from the train. It was foggy; we could not even see the banisters of the steps we were taking from one platform to another. On Platform One we warmed our hands on the hot tea cups. The fog intensified, as if thick cotton had engulfed the station. We put our hands on our suitcases which we could not see. Someone could have walked away with one. That morning my Delhi trip to Jantar Mantar was cancelled. The fog rose with the sun. Suddenly the shining railway tracks winked at us. Those were days of low platforms. I went to touch the tracks, planning to place a rupee coin on it to see how the next train flattened it. As I neared the track, a huge black demon appeared to approach me. Baba pulled me by my hand, away from the tracks, and the engine rode by. The carriages followed it. The train stopped, people got down, people climbed, the small business hawked tea and biscuits and bread pakodas. The train left. With it went the fog. As if the train had pushed it away from the tracks and adjoining platforms.
I looked back at the tracks. It was full of disposed food, eatable and from toilets. The tracks no longer winked at me; instead they were covered with black rats that came up from beneath them to devour the goodies. I guess they did not distinguish between the two kinds of food. Or maybe they did.
There was another black form amongst them. Bigger. A man. Fighting with the rats, pushing them away from a half eaten piece of bread, a smeared with curry paper plate to lick. Picking morsels that rats would have eaten and putting them in his mouth. His eyes were sharp. Astute, penetrating, looking where no rat could look, on either side of the track, lining him up for the attack, where he was a rival to the regular contestants. He had a black pyjama on, maybe it was white once, he was wearing a torn banyan, this must have been white once, his hair was matted, and his beard was unkempt. He was a human being. No, he was a rat, a scavenger. His eyes stayed with me ever since. Eyes that searched for the meagre remains from moving trains. I had never seen a contest go as basic as that. Hunger can make rodents out of humans.
Now I live in the National Capital Region. I often go down to Nizammudin Station at nights and sit on the platforms. Later I heard of someone brilliant from advertising who used to spend long hours doodling at Nizammudin Station. I hoped one day I would live near Nizammudin Station and write. My hunt for a house has narrowed down to the localities Nizammudin and Jungpura, from where I would not have to drive back an hour to reach home at night. Which are not more than ten minutes by walk from Nizammudin Station and Ashram.