The red shot sky had announced the end of daytime and, slowly-slowly darkness was creeping its way back to claim what was it’s by right. The shrill whistles of the engine were alerting the passengers of the coming halt. I stood from my seat and took the luggage in my hands to join the scattered crowd of passengers eager to dismount from the train at the station. The eagerness of people increases with every step nearing them to their destination. As the train slowed the eagerness of the passengers reached their peak and an unprecedented confusion took grip of the passengers as the people began to mount and dismount at the same time through the narrow exit. I pushed my way out through the torrent of humans of the compartment. People were squeezing their way through more people, almost standing on other people and sometimes walking over those people. The sweat of hurriedness and desperation, the aroma of hot humid summer filled the compartment. This was description of almost all the trains and stations in our overcrowded country. Railways are the manifestation of India, the beating heart and the stout spine of the country. Just as in India itself, an uneasy harmony in ever prevailing chaos.
With much maneuver and trickery I found my way to the platform or to say it truthfully forced my way to the platform. The train with another whistle was slowly creeping out of the station and the station grew calmer as the train strode through the railway line and dwindled in the dust and structures of the town. I accidentally stepped on the toes of a gentlemen but he didn’t take much notice of it. In these situations you needn’t apologize at our stations, people understand, and the apology is delivered telepathically to the recipient. Today you have stepped on his toe, some other day he may jump on yours in order to find some space on the compactly packed station.
The station belonged to a small town on the northern frontier of the country. It was the life line of innumerable villages of the district and their gateway of connectivity to the outer world. I stretched my body after the physical havoc I had faced. I took the piece of newspaper from my bag pack and started waving it to and fro to stop the drizzling of sweat through my shirt. After relaxing a while I started looking around for a place to sit and settle with my luggage. My connecting train was scheduled after four hours, and due to the infamous reputation of the railways I wasn’t expecting it before at least six or seven hours. This was a long time after I was returning to my native place. Somehow the place which was once at the center of my heart was pushed into a deep dark corner. Somehow it had become unbearable to even think and live in. Its fascinating how one person can make a whole place unlivable and unbearable? How it can create a void so big that the whole world and its love and affection cannot fill?
I looked around the length and breadth of the platform looking for my refuge for next six to seven hours. Then I spotted a bench in the middle of the platform. For strange reasons the bench was empty in the center of the station whereas all the other benches were overcrowded, perhaps because it was too a little deep in the platform. I took my bag and went to the bench and slid my luggage underneath it and sat there gazing at the people and trains rushing towards their destination. Railways, the harbinger of mystery and excitement in the mainland was continuously at work restlessly and so were the inhabitants. The sound of Azaan and Aarti suddenly burst into the air, the official declaration of the end of day for the residents of the town. Birds glided their way back to their home, to the nests, to their spring and mates. A cloud of dust was ascending in the sky, and the dust particles were shimmering and glittering in the red rays of the setting sun. The might of the sun was deterring with each tick of clock. The sun was crouching behind the vale of houses and buildings, after a long exhausting day, roaming the infinite skies. The visible figures were transforming into silhouettes from the artificial sources of light which were put mechanically at work to fill the void left by the mighty lords of light. One by one the lights were being lit in the buildings across the rather dwarf skyline of the city, like tiny fireflies in the endless darkness. The lords of the nocturnal world were singing limericks. The crickets have commenced their orchestra, playing one of their many original and refreshing compositions. The clamor of the platform rose and fell, like a rhythm at regular intervals. The emotions transcended into the air as sounds- laughter, wail, contempt and anger. The energy as well as the intensity of the platform was decreasing as the night aged and the platform was getting more lonesome with each departing soul. There were very few people left at the platform now, a few waiting passengers like myself, the staff at the station, few shopkeepers and owners of the stalls and mostly rats, big fat rats. I was being anxious with the gradual decrease in the populous of this little perfect and vibrant world. It was the loneliness that haunted me. It was the loneliness that made me wait on a concrete bench for such long hours rather than sleeping on a nice cozy bed in a decent comfortable hotel. It was the loneliness which drew me towards the platform. That’s what lonely people do; they try to find assurance in crowd, acceptance in strangers and conversation in clamors. Loneliness draws the darkness upon your soul and haunts you with disturbing and depressing memories.
Lingering in my dark thoughts in the dark corner of the platform stared in the deep eyes of the endless darkness surrounding me. A figure appeared to be formed by the shades and streaks of darkness, a face, a sketch from the pencil of my sub conscious, a face, which is now just a figment of reluctant memory in my mind, which is like a slippery dream and non attainable mirage. Then the tempo of the station again rose and it was the indication of arrival of another train. But I was still hooked at that form formed in the darkness which was staring back at me with its hazel eyes. I wanted the time to freeze and the darkness to prevail forever. I wanted to capture that figure in the darkness which was but my own and none others, but a train entered the platform like a caravan of stars, twinkles and glitters. Its bright fluorescent lighting penetrated the darkness and distorted the sketch of my imagination and the figure receded into even deeper into the darkness like a retreating tide in the ocean. But I knew she was still there in that deep darkness for the fragrance of her hair tangled in the air was gushing through me and making me conscious of her presence. She was there; she will always be there in the dark confines of my consciousness, staring at me with the same hazel eyes. I could not get her back I knew that but a strange hope always lingered in my heart. Sometime people mistake a comet for a shooting star.
It was ages before the world yielded its charm and romance but it took away what was it’s without hesitation and I was left like addict without his score, dull and empty. But I had my memories. I was contempt with it. People die; relationships decays but the memories; the memories live on forever.
I took my luggage and walked to my train with a melody of my own and some verses of my own.