This vs That Society

Chennai Central takes on its younger ‘sibling’ Egmore Station

Where Chennai Central is pitted against Egmore Station

Where Chennai Central is pitted against Egmore Station   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

One is synonymous with Madras, while the other is an icon in its own right, if ignored. Which stirs more emotions in you, Chennai Central or Egmore station?

A sepia-toned picture of a clocktower along the banks of Buckingham Canal is the first image that crosses your mind, when somebody utters the golden word: Madras. It is the place that receives every traveller with open arms, irrespective of geographical boundaries. Where Mani Ratnam’s characters roam, fostering cutesy romances. This is Chennai Central — yes, we are old-fashioned and still swear by that name.

Madras Central, as it was known, came into existence in 1873. You do realise that we are talking about 147 years of history, right? Where do we begin? Of course, it is an architectural marvel that is both Gothic and Romanesque.

Designed by George Harding, it is spread across 17 platforms with over 19 trains operating on average. A news report in 2012 stated that the station plays house to over 180,000 passengers at any given point of time. It might not be the cleanest railway station in the country (we are working on it), but sure boasts excellent connectivity and hassle-free services. Let us take cinema, for instance. Every filmmaker tends to romanticise Chennai Central, which, sadly, isn’t the case with its ‘underdog’ sibling. Yes, there have been movies that manifested fake hopes about train rides (courtesy: Gautham Menon). My journeys, for one, are filled with tales of desperation to meet a Jessie or Meghna. But the key is to not get carried away by cinema.

There is more to Chennai Central than its rich legacy and colourful history. It is that sheer joy of crossing the Basin Bridge Station, expectedly peeping through the window only to be received by a signboard that reads: Chennai Central. It is an experience every Madras-bred would relate to.

Srivatsan S no longer bothers to check the chart sheet and is convinced that his co-passengers are a couple in their 50s

It isn’t easy being the younger sibling, but that’s how Egmore has always been treated, in comparison to the Central railway station. Filmmakers go overboard shoving that old clocktower in your face, trying to wring out emotion for ‘Madras’. However, our Egmore has been quietly and efficiently ferrying millions of passengers every year since 1908, when it sprung to life to supplement Central.

Designed by Sir Henry Irwin, this red and white neo-classical structure with its long corridors and clocktower is one of the city’s younger icons. As Chennai’s spoken history goes, it was made out of a British fort that was possibly used to store ammunition. It is iconic in more than one way: until 2004, this station hosted the world’s only meter-gauge suburban train.

Its 11 platforms are where trains bound Southwards, like to Trichy, meet ones bound Northwards, to Hyderabad and Mumbai. According to a 2008 The Hindu report, along these tracks are hollow vertical columns, that were engineered to collect rainwater which was made to flow into a tank. That’s the Egmore style: efficient with no frills or fancies.

For my first four years in Chennai, going to Egmore meant taking one step closer to home, which back then was Mumbai.

To this day, when I find myself at the station commuting for work, I pass by the Dadar-Chennai Egmore Express and can’t help but daydream... what if I bought a ticket and jumped in?

Yes, Egmore may not have Central’s vastness or get the adulation from filmmakers and regular maintenance from the Government that Central does. But that’s what happens when you ignore the younger sibling, and make your firstborn your main project (Mom!)

Sweta Akundi swears she has no underlying sibling issuesto address, but will always root for the underdog

In this column, we pit two Chennai icons against each other

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 11:10:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/harbingers-of-home/article31023925.ece

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