Posted on Trivia – The Spice of Life on 30/10/2021
Aren’t there a few things we all are, both, apprehensive and curious about – pathological reports, examination results, audition test results to name a few. Add to this list the curiosity of knowing one’s weight. Is this not a weighty deliberation?
It is imperative to know how much you weigh. It is one of the parameters that doctors monitor during your visits to the clinic. The weight of neonates in particular is closely monitored to gauge whether they are thriving or not. The personal weighing scale which is used to measure body weight is therefore an important instrument. Today, many have weighing scales at home in order to monitor body weight regularly. However, there was a time when these machines were not that ubiquitous. There was one place (other than the doctor’s clinic) where one could definitely find them – the railway station!!
I refer to the coin – operated weighing machines which were first introduced in 1958 in railway stations across India. The coin – operated weighing machine had a charm of its own. It was sturdy, with colourful lights flickering. During my childhood, air travel was pretty much a luxury. Thus, trains were the preferred mode of long distance travel. Visits to the railway station were eagerly awaited – sometimes to board a train and at other times to receive friends and family.
The platform ticket was mandatory for a visitor to purchase (and it still is); the other expense (which I had made mandatory!!), though a pittance, was that which was incurred for checking one’s weight. Inserting a coin into the weighing machine and squealing with excitement as the wheel turned, when one stepped on the elevated base of the contraption was a ritual that was diligently performed on each visit to the railway station.
I would pester my parents to fish out a 50 paise coin, which alone was accepted by the machine. The glee at having secured the 50 paise would be followed by a frantic search for the weighing machine on the platform. After spotting it, the first thing I would do was take off my footwear so that my weight would be accurately measured. After standing on the machine, I would intently watch the rotating disc and wait for it to come to a standstill. Then, the 50 paise coin would be inserted into the slot, very gingerly. The next few seconds would be spent in great anticipation as the machine would dish out the thick cardboard weight card, with my weight printed on it along with the picture of an actress or actor and a line, which I rather naively felt predicted my future or described my personality accurately.
Installed by two companies, Eastern Scale Pvt. Ltd. and Northern Scale Pvt. Ltd. in the 1950s, the Railways would get a 40 per cent share of revenue from the machines. Thanks to their own weight – 225 kilograms each – not a single machine ever got stolen. First, 50 paise was the denomination which had to be inserted, which was increased to 1 Rupee and then 2.
I am not sure, how many of us have noticed but these machines are no longer found in our railway stations as they were done away with in late 2018. They are now a relic of the past and can only be seen in railway museums and the Heritage Hill Railway routes. They had become financially infeasible; the commuters too were gradually losing interest in these machines perhaps be cause of the advent of the smart phone and the fact that weighing machines are more commonly available. They were now becoming an impediment in smooth flow of passenger traffic on the platforms. Thus, the Railways did away with this contraption and packed all these machines to the junk yard. This was the pragmatic thing to do, perhaps, after weighing all options.
But these machines evoke a strong sense of nostalgia. We must show our children these contraptions in the railway museums in order to help them appreciate how we as children threw our weight around!!