The Man from Madras Musings has always had a fondness for the Central Station, though his heart has always belonged to Egmore. MMM still recalls the vast emptiness of the latter station, its wooden staircases and the drive-in platform. But all that is gone and Egmore now exasperates more than pleases. But leaving that aside, MMM having committed to writing on Central will do just that.
There may have been a time when this station was a vast emptiness too, giving you the impression of having entered a particularly cavernous church. Certainly, the Chief’s book on olde Madras confirms that view though MMM has never ever seen it that way. To MMM, it has always been a place of chaos, noise, hustle and bustle, thereby encouraging people to spend minimum time in it – you are better off rushing home or jumping into a train. That way, it admirably fulfils the purpose for which it was constructed.
But of late, getting in and getting out of the station has become such a nightmare that MMM despairs at the very thought of it. The entrance and the exit are probably what the good book meant when it spoke about the eye of the needle. Add to this the natural tendency of our brethren and sororities towards indiscipline and mayhem, and you have a rich mixture. To add local colour you also have the excellent vocabulary of those thwarted in overtaking, parking, entering and leaving. Family relationships are called into question and the blush of shame mounts MMM’s cheeks when he thinks of it all.
The Railways have blamed it all on Metro Rail, saying that this is the best that can be done considering the situation. What MMM would like to question is this attitude. There are actually acres of wasted space all around the station that can be put to good use if only someone had the imagination to think differently. Who needs, for instance, a scrap of a lawn which only serves as a resting place for vagrants? What about the largish area occupied by a hideous fountain unveiled by some minister-or-the-other for some-event-or-the-other? Do we really need it? After all, far more aesthetic buildings, statues and monuments have bitten the dust in the name of development. Next, do we still need an artificial palm tree that does not work? This was installed a few years ago and MMM remembers putting up a spirited protest even then, but to no avail. When lit up, this created the illusion of having several fronds, some dates hanging down, and was supposed to make us believe that our city had become a second Dubai. But then the dates vanished, and after some time, the fronds stopped being lit up and, finally, the trunk alone stood illuminated. Then, that too gave up the ghost.
Next, do we still need a memorial for Moore Market? MMM would be the first to admit that the scaled down model is a wonderful reproduction of the original but now that its inner courts are used as makeshift bedrooms and toilets, can we not do away with it altogether?
A substantial part of the old jail was given to the General Hospital but there is still a sizeable piece of land that can be used as parking space. Those wishing to reach the station need to only use the underpass and through it the subway. But for that, we need to clear the settlers there and stop people from using it as the largest public toilet in the world.
All this, if removed, can make for some additional space in and around the station and thereby ease up the chaos a wee bit. Easier said than done?