There is much to be thankful for at Howrah station. If you overlook the braying PA and the carpet bombing pigeons, you have to concede that much of the discomfort is a thing of the past. With two exceptions. The first is not that much of a big deal &mdash unless you travel a lot by local train on South Eastern Railways &mdash and that is the well-named Platform No. 13.
This platform is a furrow cut in the concrete, open to the heavens. If you have luggage and make the mistake of travelling by local train because it&rsquos the middle of the day and there were no expresses, you will invariably end up on this afterthought of a platform. The gods of platform allocation are capricious.
Which brings me to the second the new annexe, half a kilometre away with a cargo area in between and a separate car park. All the SE Railways express trains are supposed to use it, but in practice they do so with inexplicable exceptions. If you&rsquore arriving, then you just shrug and begin the long trek to the taxi stand. If departing, you have to reach the station with time in hand for a mad dash along an interminable overbridge.
But the best fun is had (by the gods, that is) when you are meeting elderly relatives with luggage, and you have a car. Which car park do you opt for You attempt to hang out of the window and ask coolies for platform numbers while trying to drive through the permanent madness of the station forecourt. If you get it wrong, you will have to make the old folks cross the footbridge to get to your car. Alternatively, you could go right out and come back in, buying platform tickets on the way. Delightful.