I guess most people have a special place that they could call their own; a place away from home; a place which is quiet and offers peace of mind to the individual. Everyone has the need to have some secrecy in their lives; a place where they can relax and forget about their worries even if it is for a short time. Most people go to their special place when they want to be alone for some time, especially people who are introverts or reticent. ‘The Place’ does not have to be especially beautiful or noise proof. ‘The Place’ gives the individual inner freedom to enjoy solitude and ponder about things that he or she cannot in front of others. It could be a specific bench at the park which is concealed behind a thicket of bushes, from where the view of the lush green plants is spectacular or where the birds are chirping, the bees are busily buzzing away and the butterflies are fluttering by. It could be a small ledge on the rooftop from where one can see the sunset and feel like a part of the reddish hue in the sky or a place from where half the city is visible. It may be so high up that other human beings look as insignificant as ants, like they really are, as opposed to how they feel about their existence. It is a place which brings out one’s spiritual self and carries one closer to the universal truth. A place from where the night sky looks breathtaking. A place where you would only take the ones you really love; with whom you would want to share your deepest secrets at your secret place. The special place reserved for the special people in your life. If you have such a place, you must have already painted it in your mind’s canvas and even thought about the unique someone whom you may or may not have taken there yet.
Like most people, I have such a place. I discovered it when I was 13 years old and was looking for a secluded place to smoke, as smoking was a big deal back then. Although i have kicked the habit, I have not failed to visit ‘my place’ atleast twice a week. I see many regulars there and many new people every time I visit. Some of my stray dogs had followed me there once and we all sat and reveled in its tranquility, enjoying each other’s company without talking. Since then I have taken a few special friends there including my mother and grandma. The cool breeze always kisses my cheek gently and the squirrels scurry around me running from tree to tree. There is a slight mist hanging in the air at dawn because of the moisture due to the dense trees. Sometimes I lie on the ground and observe the sky to watch the V-formations of many types of birds over ‘My Place’ during dusk. The setting sun can be viewed from there, breaking the sky into layers of dark and light shades of red, purple and yellow. At night, dogs can be heard howling from far away. The melodious sound of insects is heard there at humid summer nights. And the aroma of rain here is sweeter than other places. No, it is not a park or a garden or wilderness. It is a proper place.
My special place is a Railway Station. That is what the boards say but it is actually just the platform, a few benches, an overhead bridge and an unmanned crossing. Only two local trains in the morning and two in the evening stop there for about 12 seconds (yes, I have timed it many times!). Apart from these four, only luggage trains pass by from the station, without ever stopping for a cup of tea or snacks. That is in fact because of the lack of any shops or stalls on the platform. Very rarely, express trains pass by from here, only in case they have been re-directed to take this line because of some reason. Every time I hear the whistle blow, I think about all the train journeys of my life. Sometimes I wave back at the passengers on the trains and wish them good luck from my heart. The human count on the platform is very low at all times as many people do not come here and I am pretty sure no railway authorities ever survey this place. The grass in between the two tracks and on the sides of the platform and beyond it, are taller than I am (and I am not short!). ‘My place’ is not maintained by anyone but nature.
I cannot point out one single place on the platform which is my favourite spot but because there are only 6 benches, 2 flights of stairs and the bridge to sit on, I usually prefer the topmost stair because I can feel the wind in my face without any wind breakers in between. I do not smoke anymore but I still remember the difficulty I used to face in lighting a match up there. Nevertheless, I always selected that spot and loved to watch the smoke dissipate into the air. Sometimes, I just sit there in the rain, getting soaked and tilt my head back, open my mouth and drink the rainwater directly from the sky. Scientists say it is the purest form of water and they are absolutely right! Even the most advanced filter technologies of today cannot make water taste better than the rain water that I can taste at ‘my place’. When my mind is in a turmoil, I go there to take decisions, make up my mind about something or someone, study for an exam, read a good book, listen to songs, cry privately, enjoy the biting cold winter wind, get wet in the rain which comes down crashing on me or just to hang out with myself, away from the rest of humanity. The whistle of the train is audible from my house. In my sleep, when I hear the train chugging and whining, I imagine myself at the station, on the steps, looking up at the stars and smiling.