Monday 25 April 2016

A railway platform

The tea is specially bad here. This is a place where you have an equal chance of stepping on something disgusting or an actual sleeping human being. When we move in crowds, our shoulders get rubbed here and no one says 'excuse me'. This place never sleeps. It is an Indian railway platform.

Railway platforms come in all shapes and sizes. The small ones have those trademark drinking water fountains which cleverly never mention drinking water for whom!? The moss gathered around the taps depicts the lack of any rolling among those stones. The ecosystem at the railway platform and inside the trains is a unique one. The cobbler walks around with hopeful eyes fixed on the shoes in the crowd. Shabbily dressed beggars seem to make the platform their natural home. A traveler feels like a guest at this place. This place inhabited by vendors, hawkers and beggars.

Whenever there is a dearth of space and people are crouching, sleeping in groups, there is always a coolie coming through. A coolie with a wooden trolley, carrying something heavy. His grunts and shouts serve the purpose of a car horn in traffic. The platform is the human version of the Indian road traffic. Whenever you need to rush, there is always a giant slow truck-like person obstructing the way by being too slow. You do want to help them with the luggage but, you wouldn't. Because it is the railway platform. A jungle where there are no rules and every man is for himself. The rules are put on hold in cases of newspaper sharing though. We share newspaper like a public commodity at railway platforms. The absurdity of our birthright over someone else's newspaper's page 3 never strikes us.

As we step down from our cars, taxies, rickshaws and enter the platforms on our feet- the boundaries dissolve. Families display their inner dynamics in full public view. Children getting scolded for falling behind, strangers smiling at babies, women smiling at each other, testosterone-driven men picking fights over silly things, etc. The guards are somewhat down and they are lowered further as trains are delayed, fans stop working, public announcements get inaudible or too loud. Everything just bringing us together bit by bit like nothing else.

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