There is a serene calm about small railway stations. My favourite railway station is Sewagram. It is always clean, never cramped with crowds and has that open spacious feel to it.
I love to wait there and people-watch even when trains are delayed. The entire platform is lined by beautifully maintained bougainvilleas and the Gandhi murals on the wall speak about the historical importance of this place. Now with lifts in place it is convenient for those who cannot negotiate the steep stairs too.
Like any other small place, you invariably bump into someone you know. And they never feel awkward about asking probing questions about where you are going or why you are travelling.
Once upon a time this station used to be called Wardha East. Old timers will tell you about how they had to hire tongas to travel from Sevagram to Wardha. Initially there was only one Wardha station and trains which were north-south bound had to wait until their engines could be reversed. Wardha East station was started in 1985 to make things easier. New Delhi and Chennai bound trains now stop at Sewagram and bypass Wardha junction. I don’t know when Wardha East with a station code of WRE changed to Sewagram with a code of SEGM. But I wish it had been spelled Sevagram instead of Sewagram.
The most famous thing about Sewagram station are the hot Wardha East special vadas. There is no way you can resist the wafting aroma of these fried chana dal fritters. The zing of the extra garlic, and the added green chillies they give you with your purchase, gives it that memorable flavour. And when it is raining it is fun to go to the station and buy the vadas even if you are not travelling by train anywhere.
There is one peculiar way of knowing whether your train is about to arrive at the platform here. The sleepy vada sellers on the platforms will suddenly buzz alive. There are announcements of course, but the frenzied movement of the vada sellers is a guaranteed confirmation that your wait is about to end.
Alas things aren’t the same as earlier. With new rules, gas cylinders were banned on railway platforms. So the pleasure of watching the vada sellers painstakingly chopping piles of onions in the morning, or frying the sizzling vadas in huge kadahis is gone. They make the vadas outside and bring them to the platform later. So the piping hot vadas are no longer available and the tepid ones aren’t as crunchy. Secondly with onion prices shooting sky high, the sellers have resorted to using cabbage instead which ruins the flavour.
But thankfully several stalls have cropped up all over Sevagram with signboards proclaiming that they are the authentic Wardha East ke famous Vade sellers. So our monsoon are sizzling hot like before.
Enjoy these vadas if you ever cross Sewagram station. But be careful not to venture too far as most trains stop only for a minute or two at this station.