Railway Platforms

We were early to the station. The platform was more or less empty. Soon it will take the form of a bustling, crowded and buzzing stage for weary, enthused and excited travelers. We made our way down the staircase that led to the platform and sat down to wait for our train. I looked back the way we had come, and for a moment I sat there fascinated. Pretty, I thought, looking at the rainbow colored steps of the stairs we had just climbed down from. One wouldn’t expect to find pretty things in a place filled with humans, because people tend to ruin pretty things.

A young man, perhaps in his mid twenties ran up the stairs to get the bag from his limping grandfather. Two old ladies walked down the staircase leading into the platform. One of them, held on to the railing for support while making her way down. She wore a cream saree, maybe it said something about her, maybe it didn’t, her glasses resting on the bridge of her nose. Every now and then she stopped and glanced down, trying to discern the effort and time it might take to reach the platform. The other lady, in blue, slowly walked along with her. No one wants to walk alone, its always either a forced choice or a lack of options. The young man ran back up stairs and took the bag she carried and brought it back to the platform, where his grandfather guarded the luggage. I wonder where they are going. Where is the rest of his family? My curious glances didn’t go unnoticed, but they remained unanswered.

A father holding the hand of his son, walked him down the stairs. The little boy, concentrated hard on taking every step, each of which was too big for his little legs. His other arm outstretched to keep his balance or perhaps it was his eagerness to reach his mother, who was waiting for the both of them at the bottom of the stairs. Her upturned face smiled at her family, maybe she had finally found where she belonged..

A coffee seller quickly ran down the stairs, holding a metal can filled with the hot brew, with a string of cups hanging across his chest, like the arms of a soldier going into battle. Maybe this was a battle for him.. As soon as he reached the bottom of the stairs, his voice broke through the hum drum of a normal day at the railway platform, ”Coffee…Coffee..coffee”, and somewhere the same voice was lost again.
A man, with graying hair, and black rimmed glassed, sat contemplating at one of the cement benches. He held his phone in one hand, at an arm’s length, staring into it intently, his finger unconsciously tapping his lips every now and then. He seems worried, and in a hurry, I thought.

Slowly, platform 11 grew more and more crowded, the air now pulsing with the energies of the people it accommodated. So much movement, people came and were lost again. My attention jumping from one person to the other, wondering what their stories were, wondering what kind of a life they have lead, what dreams they dreamed, and what changed them. I fixed my attention back on the colorful steps that led to the platform.

A couple of workers, carrying goods for the railway shops made their way quickly with a determined stride to them down the stairs. It was a new day and the shops needed to be replenished for the weary travelers yet to come.

Two ladies, their heads covered and wearing burqas came and sat near the pillar, They were engrossed in their world. I wonder what they talk about, what makes them so lost to the rest of us..

Four men, wearing the ceremonial black around their waist and their neck, without slippers, carrying the bare minimal necessities required for their journey to the temple at Sabarimala, made their way down. I looked at their feet, and wondered what had made them undertake this pious journey, a journey that required sacrifices, sacrifices that wouldn’t come easily for a human, sacrifices that asked for tremendous will and a commitment that could test the best of us.

A lone girl, talking over the phone walked to the edge of the platform and looked expectantly towards the direction of the expected train.

A man, holding a baby in his arms came next. He walked at a pace rather slow for his age. He was followed by another child, who held onto the edge of his shirt, the other hand sucking his thumb, as he tried to look around at the intimidating crowd while making his way down those stairs with the terribly big steps.

Three foreigners walked down with their rucksacks hanging over their backs.

A father with his young girl came sat next to us. He wore a cap, the kind that retired army men seemed to wear, which made me think he was an army man. He wore a half sweater over a formal shirt. His daughter was wrapped up in a jacket, with a scarf around her neck. Next to her rested her suitcase. A father off to drop his daughter off to a boarding school?

An old man with a walking stick with a bag over one shoulder, slowly, very slowly, achingly, tried to climb, holding on to the railings for support. His wooden leg tapped and dragged across each step. I watched him till he made his way to the top of the stairs, to the top of the stairs that everyone seemed to be making their way down of.

I looked back towards the staircase. I wanted to stop, to stop thinking about their lives, to stop feeling lost, to stop drifting away and talk to my mother who sat patiently, waiting for me to anchor myself to reality again. But anchoring myself is always so hard..once you begin, you want to lose yourself drifting along, pretending you are a will o’the wisp, inconsequential, insignificant, irrelevant…picayune.

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