October 21, 2015

Karaikal Passenger

Good morning and good evening from my daily commute.

Oh, the joys of a window seat on the train.

The city-scape and landscape with new detail on every journey.
The fields and the villages gradually changing into high-rise apartments and bridges under which unfortunate commuters wait in standstill traffic. 
The morning crisp breeze versus the evening sultry air. 
The sun setting into hues of red and purple.
Building facades transforming into light matrices.
Village mud roads into highways dotted with red and yellow.
The slow moving horizon and blur of faces thronging the gates of the railway crossings.

The deep chugging.
The shrill whistles piercing the air.
The tinkling of the key chain seller.
The clapping and coquetting of the hijras.
The vendors announcing their menus: lime rice, poori bhajji, idli chutney, samosas, bhel puri, muruku, peanut chikki and lots of chai.
The pleadings for seat space,"Auntie, swalpa adjust maadi."
The impatient sighs while we halt at railway signals.
Hungry, whining toddlers.
The silence of those with phones- eyes glued, ears plugged.

The hyperactive children clambering up the baggage racks.
The bickering, gossiping ladies with handbags that need seat space.
The uncles with their newspapers.
Vacationing families with packed breakfasts.
The commuters with their backpacks and emotionless faces.
And the dosing grandma whose head keeps falling on my shoulder.

The smells of onion chutney and tamarind rice.
Fresh jasmine and strong cologne.
Smelly feet and sweaty children.
And eucalyptus from the trees at the Bellandur Road station.

The bogey we share with invisible mosquitos and the odd cockroach.
Once a bird flew right through.
(So far no mice!)

The eyes of ladies judging my clothes.
Babies eyeing my bright blue phone 
My neighbours peering at the front cover of the book I'm reading.
And the nosy boy reading my text messages. 

Days when I can put my feet up on the seat in front of me. 
Days when seat space is a luxury, luggage racks become seat space and lap space become luggage racks.
And standing space and leaning space will have to make-do.

But despite all the excitement on the train- 
My favourite is thrill of a passing express train at the station.
Standing a few feet away.
Feet apart for balance.
The gust of breeze, the thundering of wheels. 
The monstrous engine barging through.
The streaks of blue, indigo and yellow.
Eyes squinting.
The platform quaking underneath.
The roof sheets shuddering overhead.
The station master with his green flag in silent adieu to a couple hundred passengers on another train from somewhere else going someplace else.

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