Agla Station

Agla station…

This feels weird. Okay, I get it that the train is late, it always is, but there’s a feeling in my head that this is weird. It’s one of those moments of obscurity when the truth is veiled by obvious patterns. And when the winds of instinct flows, the shroud flutters.

I spot a coolie who’s so old that he could be carrying this enormous baggage of failure straight to the graveyard without a single tear being shed for him. There’s a lad who’s orbiting around a pretty face with the pretty face in dark about a potentially hostile satellite. There is an unsuspecting and up-for-adoption bag which is drawing more attention than a child who looks almost ready to bid adieu if he skips another meal. I shouldn’t be looking at the bag, though. There are plenty of faceless people moving up and down an assembly line with their attention glued to technology. That goddamn train should arrive soon, or I might kill one of these folks instead. My conscience is rattling under the leash of acceptability, waiting to break free.

The city was good to me in the beginning just like an encounter with a stranger. You shake hands, force a smile, ask how’s life, small talk about weather and traffic and religion and ISIS, while trying to force down the rising bile in your throat. I was serenaded by its busy life and busier nightlife. The City of Dreams. The City that never sleeps. That’s a contradiction right there. If you don’t sleep, you don’t dream.

When did it all go downhill? When did the City turn its back on me? Maybe it was when it dressed itself in huge billboards from which successful people smile at you. They are paid to smile, paid lakhs of rupees to flaunt their pearly whites, some of which are photoshopped of course, while the ones who actually break sweat are swaying in a bus surrounded by hundred other swaying bodies, exchanging glares and sweat galore, beneath the very same billboard. Or maybe it was when my neighbor, the guy who helped me move my as-heavy-as-a-continent bed to retrieve my keys and who always used to share Biryani and kheer from his kitchen with me, was arrested on preemptive suspicion and then swallowed by the city never to be found again. Or was it when a drunk mob lynched a man just because he thought that kicking a dog and hitting it with sticks is not cool, and the city just stood silent. Part of the scene, part of the crime, as the old adage goes. Maybe I will never find out when the switch tripped. Maybe I will never find out when the terror was born inside my head.

The distant sound of the approaching metal-on-tracks is requiem to the ears. All the things are in place. Except for that guy, a walking advertisement for America, who is caught right at the periphery by a Ticket Examiner. The announcer in an almost un-understandable accent announces that death would be indeed arriving on platform no. 2, and I have a visual confirmation. Others, continue their nonchalant motions oblivious to what they’re about to witness next.

The weirdness in my head is pushed to the periphery by a storm that’s almost grinning at the prospect of causing mayhem. Unleashed and untamed, I took a deep breath. Years of failure and disappointment greets me. A final push, perhaps? I desperately need to get to the other side, and when the moment arrived, I took the leap.

_____________________________________________________________

…Khar road. Next station, Khar road.

The faceless men are back. And they are all staring at me. They come close in a poetic motion but are pulled back by the clutches of inertia, when the train screeched to a halt. Damn! I missed the train. Again.

 

Colour of violence

He held the black & white photograph in his hand. Ammi and Abu were smiling as usual. The glint in their eyes filled the dark room with hope. Whenever the tables were turned against him, he used to glance at the photograph for strength. It reminded him of his happier days.

Ammi running behind him to put him to bed at night.
Abu giving him Eidi to buy whatever he wanted.
Both feeling proud when he easily distinguished between colours in childhood.

Happier days. That was what he wanted to concentrate on. But the mind is an untameable beast. It wanders off to places you don’t like.

Shouts of Har Har Mahadev filling the bylanes.
Men brandishing swords, with vermillion heavy forehead, and kicking open the front door.

The tensed and worried look on Abu’s face when he said ‘You will be safe’.

Screaming, he looked away from the photograph. It had turned into red. The colour of blood.
He rechecked the pins on the grenade and the safety lock on the Kalashnikov. The colour of revenge.