While I was waiting on the station for my train to arrive, I noticed bustling on the rails abutting the platform. I had to strain hard to gauge what was transpiring in the veil of darkness. A mischief of rats was scouring the gravel for food in the litter which had been thrown by irresponsible passengers on the tracks. They moved at a great pace crisscrossing between the two parallel lines, as if it was the last time they were ingesting for many years to come. A train was approaching. I was hoping that their animal instincts would forewarn them to evacuate their feeding grounds for the safe shelters of the sewer drains. But they didn’t budge. They persisted with the hogging. I gave the train a miss to see what damage had the train done to them. Guess what? I didn’t see one dead rat. They went on with their customary routine. Fear is such a subjective emotion, I said to myself, both in its presence and effects.
I caught the next train. I was in a first class bogie. Through the metallic grill separating my section from the second class, I saw hordes of passengers, crushed against each other like hay in a stack. I felt each one of them was staring at me. Wonder what they were making of me - A snob, an elite freak, one who is born with a silver spoon? Or just thinking I was on the right side of the divide at the right time. All I did was break eye contact. There glance was telling me more than I wanted to know, more than I wished to take then. I looked out of the compartment.
Just then another train passed by. It was Doppler’s effect at its best. The sound of a horn cutting through space and time, screaming through the air, gave the impression that it was calling someone’s name. And in a moment, the sound was overshadowed by light, moving like a Jedi Knight’s sword. Inconspicuously, the sound of the horn has been replaced by the rattling of the tracks, amplified due to the waves bouncing on and off the bodies of the two trains. I thought how the mind can find music in noise, harmony in chaos, selectively and decisively, isolating you and the rest of your world.
It was time to change trains. I was late in realising that I was waiting at the wrong place for my compartment, so I got on the train through the door that came to a halt in front of me. The crowd was more sluggish than usual, not pushing and shoving their way through the door. The centre bar of the door was missing. I thought it was the luggage compartment. But then it occurred to me that I was getting on the compartment reserved for the handicapped. I stood by the door. As the train approached the next station a blind man made his way through the crowd. Another man with only one arm stopped him, telling him that he would fall off the train if he moved further. A cripple moved his crutches so that the blind man wouldn’t trip over them. I contemplated on how much the handicapped were dependant on others around them, how they trusted their lives in the hands of strangers, and how these strangers reciprocated only because they had a deeper understanding of one another’s plight. And in the middle of it all, how people like me just chose to stand there and watch.
The train stopped at my destination station and I hopped off. But I didn’t know how long it had been since I began my journey. Nor did I wish to know. I wanted to go on and on my journey through wonderland.