Khar station: platform politics and the heaviness of life
A begging family (a mom and two little ones) is displaced, shuffled along the platform by a gang of girl child ruffians. All the wild girls had to do was sit in their space, and the family picked themselves up and moved along. The politics of train platform territory. Even though both of these groups are people unwanted by the regular people, they are still separate and keep their own spaces.
Also on the platform is a thin man breathing into a rag, differently from the way I’d breathe through a rag. It offers him a little bit of relief.
(I would breathe through a rag to avoid what is on the outside, he is breathing through a rag to breathe in what is soaked into the rag.)
(In the same way that I take relief from air pollution, he is taking relief from life pollution. The same, but different.)
The wild girls sit in their dusty skirts and outrageous gypsy clothes in a circle. Their hair is in dreadlocks, bleached yellow like straw. Palms of hands and soles of feet are filthy, years of train platform grime. They eat peanut chikki and laugh together while all of the regular people turn up their noses.
In the ladies car, a fifth woman occupies the edge of a bench designed for three… a little bit of relief for her knees.
Between stops are workmen who have have calves whose skin is tight over taut muscles. When a train passes by every several minutes, they straighten their backs and gaze in a daze, sweat dripping into their eyes. They look into the ladies’ cars that fly by, hopefully. What a relief that there would be something beautiful to gaze at, at regular intervals, all day and every day of this otherwise thankless work!
The most charismatic character of the begging family is a boy of maybe four years. The stained happy face on his dirty tshirt is eclipsed by his real smile. We played a game of peekaboo, exchanging sly smiles from behind his mother’s back. He pulled his tshirt up and down in excitement, revealing a stomach stained from the playground that he makes of every place that he lives. Mostly places like these.
I feel so relieved that I can have this exchange with this little boy on a train platform, to me it means I am at least a little bit as human as he is. Thank goodness.
What a relief it is that at least some things stay the same. A blind man shuffles along the car, jingling three rupees’ change in his withered hand for effect. He has ridden the western line for so many years. He always knows exactly where he is, in which part and which side of which station, better than most sighted people. He knows only sounds and rhythm, suffers no other distractions than these.
Then, the unthinkable. When the train came, one of the wild girls was first to climb aboard, in front of all of the well dressed regular ladies. My god.
She stops and holds the bars on both sides and grins widely. No-one can come in without touching her, and no-one wants to touch her: she is dirty, and they are clean. She is smiling, and they’re frowning and shouting and cursing. What a nuisance she is.
A little revenge, a little relief! If you will not notice or acknowledge me, I will make you.
I for one, when riding the train, am relieved of all of my own feelings… and such a relief it is.