I had a chance of visiting Howrah recently. It is not that Howrah station is new to me. I have been visiting it two point five times a year on an average since 2010.
The first time I stepped down at Howrah was in 2010 to give an Engineering Entrance Test. It was an average May morning.The overcrowded place reminded me of my grandmothers description ‘when you will visit Calcutta, there will be a sea of people..’, there before me were uncountable human beings walking with whatever luggage they could afford in random directions.
The thing that amazed me most was the rail tracks ended all of a sudden!
The station was a terminal.
This was a lot different than Patna Junction where people boast of a station that connects all major cities of India.
That day the sudden end of tracks reminded me about discontinuous functions and how painful it would be to integrate them piece wise; I was high on maths those days.
But ain’t these tracks integrated everyday by the billions of commuters who travel across the length and breadth of the country?
They are.But I digress.
The summer of Howrah is made unbearable by the moisture contributed by the river. You have to bath each time you come back to hotel.
My couple of days spent led me to the hypothesis that Kolkata is the city with largest smoking population, which I solemnly believe till date. Anytime and every time I left the hotel, a smoker would appear before the other one was out of sight : the man talking on phone, street-side vendor selling datun and beedi, a man crossing road, a man peeing in corner, rickshaw-driver and cab-drivers.
A smoking cab-driver.
That is how we met our driver waiting for us on the latest visit a week back.
Well, we do not mind smokers in Kolkata. Do we?
However, he was polite enough to not smoke inside the royal ambassador.
But his politeness evaporated as he started driving. Relying too much on brake fluid he stepped on the brakes real hard, accelerated normally but yelled and cursed almost each driver he overtook. We had many narrow escapes sometimes from barriers sometimes from buses and sometime from cyclists.
Smoke and rash driving have seeped into the culture of Kolkata and no one seems to mind it.
While tracks and roads never end, journeys should. They should end safely. Howrah is a place where infinitely long rail tracks end too. Shouldn’t journeys end safely there too?