Saturday, September 5, 2009

Railway Crossings

The dog was relaxing under the grey pole with zig-zag trusses on it. The zig-zag went till the top where the pole supported the shed on the railway platform. A pigeon was swelling it's neck there going round and round in front of the female under the shed. She flew away showing no interest in his dance. The pigeon followed. Both of them vanished behind the yellow building adjacent to the railway station. Constantly being irritated by the flies the dog was trying, fluttering its ears to drive them away. It was probably too weak to move anything but its ears. The flies would not leave him. It had developed mange. Hairs absent behind its neck and its ears, it had the symptoms of Demodectic Mange, a disease supposedly incurable.
The boy sitting next to me was trying to avoid seeing the dog. He was making faces whenever he inadvertently saw it. He was abusing. The train was four hours late. People who had moved away were crowding up as the time of arrival approached. Woman on the next bench asked her two kids who were running around the bench to stop. They didn't listen so she took the younger of the two in her lap. The other kid subsided and sat next to his mother. He was now trying his best to trouble her.
The boy was now getting ready and was shifting his suitcases. He was still avoiding the dog. He had an important interview he was telling the person next to him. The person smiled in response. I don’t know why he smiled, as if it was necessary. Probably a practiced articulated expression so much instilled that it came out even when it was not required. The same way you hit your skin when it itches even when there is no mosquito responsible. The dog under the pole was unmoved. It seemed to be pretty much experienced of the chaos. A younger dog was perplexed however. It was not able to pave it's way across the crowd. Crowd thickened as the train arrived from the right. People could be seen hanging from the doors, a sign that tussles lay ahead. Squeaking breaks brought the people closer to the tracks. It was just a two minute stop so everybody was worried to get on to the train. Train stopped and suddenly pushing and jostling and wrestling all started at once. I had no luggage and so had an advantage over others. I quickly ran for the door and pushed myself inside. Fortunately as I entered an old woman decided to leave so I got the seat. I saw that the boy who was sitting next to me at the station was not that fortunate. He was struggling to get into the train with all his luggage. People were pushing him outside telling him that there was no more space. I could see hundreds of hands pushing him and half the number of mouths barking at him. He was mouthing obscenities explaining he had an important interview. Nobody was listening. He was confused. The train started with a sudden jerk. He made a final attempt and somehow with all his effort got in. It must have been an important interview - it was difficult not to read his sweating and terrified face. He placed his suitcase near the corner berth and sat on it. His hands were shaking as he took out a handkerchief from his pocket. I saw the dog resting under the pole pass by. It was still fluttering it's ears under the pole.
The other younger dog was now relaxed. It was standing confused though as to weather the tick that was troubling it was on its right or left. It was reaching for its tail for the tick once from the left and then suddenly from the right. The station slowly passed by and then houses and then trees started to pass by faster and faster. Villages passed by and then railway crossings, people waiting for the train to pass by. I thought of the time when I waited for the train at the railway crossings and then thought of - I amongst people or people amongst I?
Crowd within the train had settled. Disturbances came only in the form of beggars or people crossing the coach to reach another, or people selling food. Light was now getting dimmer outside and brighter inside. Sun was setting behind the farms. I saw the farmers returning from the field. They saw the train pass by and then returned to their conversation. Their faces were dry of dissent. As if they disagreed on the train passing by. The fat man on the window continued his gossips, he was narrating how he bashed and pummeled a thief when he snatched an ear ring off his sister's ears from the window during a train journey. His hands swelled he was describing showing his lower arm where it had swelled. It must have been a really bad day for the thief I thought as I saw his huge hands. You always find such people with interesting stories on train. Mostly they are fat. If the narrator is fat the stories will be interesting. It is however not vice-versa. The boy on the suitcase was reading a newspaper and discussing it with an old man who was nodding in agreement every time he made a comment. They were discussing the deteriorating conditions of the socio economic structure. They were loud and furious, abusive and retaliating. Both criticized the prime minister and agreed that it needed a revolution to bring about any significant change and that it will come soon. And that they will die for the cause at that time. I saw both were emotional and excited. The old woman on the berth was not interested. She was busy chewing nuts with her teethless gums and was frequently bending down to see if her luggage under the berth was safe. She must have done it more than fifty times since she boarded the train.
Train started slowing down. Next station had come, parallel tracks could be seen along. Breaks started squeaking. This was a smaller station. They squeaked for the final time stopping the train with the familiar jerk. Movements started in and around the train but nobody got down. It was as jam packed as before. There were noises coming from the door. I bent to see what was happening. A man was trying to get in. All the people were pushing him outside. The boy inside was the loudest of them all. He was leading the front pushing the man outside. The man outside was shouting, expalining he had an important business to attend to. Nobody was listening. Hundreds of hands and half the number of mouths. Station started moving backwards. A child waved at the train. Houses passed by and then trees passed by faster and faster. Villages and then I saw people waiting at the railway crossings. I thought of the time when I waited at the railway crossings for the train to pass by. And then I thought of “I amongst people or people amongst I?”

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