The train was about to leave the station. The railway staff on platform was performing its duty of technical support, checking various electrical and
mechanical points. Staff on train was doing different kind of duty. They were making sure that everyone finds their seats, helping seniors with luggage, making sure supply of food and water was adequate. Along with these official activities, many more things were happening. Those could be broadly categorized into three distinct parts, as they are happening in three different locations. Thus each activity could be seen only from that particular place. Only person who knows what is happening in all three locations is the writer i.e. me.
Any train that leaves a station takes with it many people to another predetermined destination. That is the basic purpose of transport. The people who are going away take their allotted seats in the train and the ones who came to send them off, stay on the platform. Invariably emotions take over; especially as the departure time comes closer. Sounds of guard’s whistle of or of the engine, enhances the emotions further. Most people cry openly. They use white hankies to wipe their tears etc. People sitting in the train are also do the same, but a bit less. They may be excited, because for them a journey is about to begin taking them to an exciting destination or event. People undertake journeys for various reasons. It may be work related, meeting a loved one, a celebration or just a well deserved holiday with family… The train leaves. The people on the platform are being left behind. They get further and further away from the train and from the people they came to send off. The distance between the two keeps growing… even after everyone has stopped thinking about it – the distance I mean.
Then there are people inside the train. They will remain as close to each other as when they took their seats in the train. Most of them may not have any intention of being together in the train or otherwise, but they have to remain within a fix distance from each other. If they look around, they all can see each other. They can also make friends, if they so wish and are friendly type. The viewer can find them sharing smiles, share snacks, water, information like where, why, even jokes. Confined within a fixed distance of each other, does not make them happy or sad. Another thing that is happening at this time is that distance between them all and the destination is becoming shorter. But it is not yet close enough to think about it. Thus all passengers retain a neutral ‘let me be’ type expression, even if they are together. Due to train’s constant repetitive rhythmic sound, many pairs of eyes get blurry, resulting in drowsiness even deep sleep.
A bell has been sounded on an empty platform. Gradually railway staff is getting to their toes. Canteen boys start heating the morning tea yet again. Snack vendors start hushing away the persistent flies, who have been having their fill without any problem so far. The railway tracks are being checked. Station master has received a signal from the outer signal that the train is passing through. That means it will here in another five minutes. If it was a super-fast, it would have passed in 2 minutes. But this one has to slow down to stop here. Outside the station, people have started emerging from taxis, cars, autos, cycle rickshaws. Some of them are already on the platform. They might have arrived earlier from a place far away. Some of them bend over the edge of platform to get a flicker of movement and when they see it coming, they call out to others, “it’s coming. Coolie!” etc. As the distance between the people in train and people on this platform is reducing, the excitement in heart of people is growing. There is a young woman, an old couple, group of people in ‘white kurta’ carrying an over sized garland. I can see a ‘pooja thali’ with a lamp being lit… All spread across the platform. They all know who will emerge from which compartment. The distance finally becomes zero. And the people who had to remain at a fixed distance from each other are freed. They peep from the windows and doors to find the faces they want to see. Bright smiles, waves and ‘here, here’, fills the atmosphere. With a long screech the train comes to a halt. Woman with ‘mehdi hands’ rotates the pooja thali around a young man’s face, oversized garland now hang around a fat necked white kurta-pyjama, a young couple touches feet of old couple…
Gradually these actors start moving out.
After another set of whistles and wave of green flag, the train too vacates the station.