Monday, October 15, 2007


He is not a young daredevil, no, he is not. He is middle-aged, paunchy, wears the clothes that a clerk in a government office would wear, which is a white shirt hanging outside a polyester trouser, and is carrying a bag on his shoulder, his lunch bag.

He would easily pass off for the thousands who pass through the station everyday and every night, on the way to the office, planning their day, planning what they would do after dinner, maybe, a walk with the wife in the nearby park, or, maybe, some television, or a music talent show with his children. He may like talent shows, they are a craze these days, isn’t it, and he must be rooting for Anik Dhar, or, maybe, Raja Hasan, in Saregama talent show.

But that’s not the reason I look at him. He is standing on a three-inch ledge in between two compartments of the Harbor line train to Panvel, holding on to an equally thin ledge, a metal piece jutting out of the compartment’s frame.

Several things could happen. The train could jerk over a turning and he could lose his grip, fall down, and it would be a sudden end. It could pick up speed a bit abruptly and send him flying outwards, in which case, too, it would be a sudden end. Or, he could look down and in a momentary vertiginous spell lose his mental bearing, in which case, too, it would be a sudden end.

Why? Why, is he taking such a big risk? If the compartment is too crowded why doesn’t he wait for the next train? Hasn’t he ever seen the mashed up bodies, their heads like pulp, breathing their last, lying dismembered near railway tracks? What is the hurry, now that he is on the way home? Does his wife and children know that he is taking such a big risk with their lives?

Why? I just saw him and feel like screaming at him, why? Can he even imagine what I have seen only a few days ago?


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