It takes a certain effort to convince yourself that it does indeed exist. That you aren’t looking at some architectural apparition concocted of ether and Mumbai soot. Almost immediately you tend to notice that everyone else passing by it without a care in the world. “Can it be that they don’t see it?” I may live to be a hundred thousand years, but my reaction to seeing “VT” will always be the same.
Before I left for Mumbai last October I asked if anyone had requests. The Marthas asked for a picture of a train station, and so, first day in Mumbai, camera in hand, October Heat in full swing, I set out in search of a platform.
So I went to the train station.
Victoria Terminus opened to the public in 1882, four years after building commenced (it was finished in 1888). F.W. Stevens, the architect, is also responsible for the old municipal commision building. In the late 90s the station was renamed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (after Shivaji, Maratha king, balls of titanium), but most people still refer to it as VT (probably because “CST” isn’t as easy to pronounce). There is no statue of Shivaji there yet, but it’s only a matter of time, and should make an interesting addition. I only wish they’d make something slightly different from the usual “Shivaji on a horse, sword aimed forward” pose. Okay, okay, so they won’t take my suggestion of a depiction of Shivaji ripping the intestines of his enemies out with his infamous tiger-clawed glove. Oh well, at least some P.C. nut hasn’t brought about a ban on Kali and Durga imagery yet (“But think of the Children. THE CHILDREN!!”).
The statue at the top (visible in the first pic), by the way, is supposed to be Progress. Hello, Dearie. Where’ve you been all my life?
“I was standing on top of a train station. How the hell do I get down?”
The name isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Note the pipe-like structures that disappear into the ground in this picture (near the red bus). Other than making VT look more like the steampunk cathedral it already is, they’re the latest addition; a pedestrian subway to alleviate the congestion that used to happen earlier when four roads and a few hundred thousand pedestrians mixed on the crossroads in front of the station. When it was built everyone and their mother complained that it was an eyesore, but I love it; VT finally looks complete. Now all we need is a rocket launchpad next to Ms. Progress.
This is The platform on a very, very slow day. Things really heat up after 5pm when the offices leave, but when I took this picture it was early afternoon, probably the only daylight time when this station is not bursting at the seams with people either coming in or heading out. VT is the end of the Central Railway line, smack dab in the middle of the downtown office district. It’s also one of the major stations where out-of-city trains come in. For many people this is the first place they touch Mumbai ground; it’s like getting into heaven at God’s driveway.
It’s no secret that I’m a South Mumbai nut; I love the palpable sense of magick in the air (a feeling only matched in Elephanta and Dadar market). And South Mumbai starts at VT. Its north border is the footbridge that hangs over the road, connecting the train platform to the Times of India building on the other side. VT stands like a sentinel, Progress at its head, receiving millions each day, sending them back on their way each evening.
Of the 300 or so outdoor pictures I took on the trip, all of them are either in Dadar or South Mumbai. These are old places, places of magick, places that were magickal long before 1878. It still takes a certain effort to convince myself that they do indeed exist.