Bandra station at dusk

In the evening at Bandra station, there is a thick rush of a thousand people going to do different things. Some are heading home from work, some heading to work, from home. I’m watching the light and rush of people around me like a dream.

On the overhead walkway is a row of men squatting instead of sitting. Dark oiled skin, dry and sparse white hair, and white dhotis that are almost purple from the blue rinse in which they’ve been washed so many times.

A row of women running instead of walking come in a hurry, heeled sandals slapping the ground. Stainless steel tiffins falling and knocking against synthetic folds of fabric, falling against cotton petticoats that fall against legs that have carried them to every place they have ever been, every place they have wanted and not wanted to go. Inside the tiffins are their cut vegetables. They carried them whole in the tiffins on the train to work at 6:30AM this morning, and on the evening train back, laid them out on sheets of newspaper on the train floor and chopped them.

They call out HUT, HUT as they dodge between other bodies in the mass.

A mother holds her disabled child on one side, his contorted features forming the strangest happy face I’ve ever seen, his limbs are limp, his head is lolling, but he is laughing.

She is holding her dupatta out in front of her with her other hand, using it to catch coins thrown for karma.

Her eyes are down.

Evening wind is picking up the dust on the overhead walkway. Flies stand still in the air, in the wind tunnel, hovering and hesitating like a still life.

The station colours are grey and dust. Sweat breaks on everyone’s temples. The colours outside the station are filtered salmon and tangerine, colours that would be bright if I was not seeing them through the dust filter.

Those colours fall on a Masjid and on the station building’s rust red rooftop.

Outside vendors sell everything. HundRED hundRED hundRED they yell, brandishing alarm clocks and mens’ ties, waving thin arms over mounds of tshirts with slight defects.

And when there is a call to prayer. The crackly speakers above the Masjid begin to drone.

The shopkeepers are a group of ants, boys in tight jeans and brightly coloured cheap collared shirts, and belts, hats, chains and accessories. Some wear kajal in their eyes.

With that drone, the ant colony picks up their saleswares, not moving them from the board they’re piled on. Each board is lifted above each head, each neck, each human being with dreams and aspirations. And they move single file with the boards with saleswares overhead, in a line to behind the mosque. The hundreds of shops and shouting shopkeepers have disappeared in less time than if there had been a police raid.

The station hubbub is all of a sudden half of what it was. The flies are still hesitating. I am watching every bold colour through the dust filter and it seems less real than it is.

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