Train Tales

Kuntala Sengupta

Wants to know your story, over an orange ice-candy. Or, while she doodles.

Naina looked out of the local train window, the stark sun had begun to set and the people were out of their homes in flocks. Nothing interested her — the outstretched sameness of the lush greens set against puddles of litter, the huts along the tracks with dingy clothes left to dry on the borrowed stones, the women fetching lice on each other’s heads in a line, men playing cards in their bare bodies and skimpy towels, children playing with other children, and young men reclining on their bikes and exchanging the day’s dealings of pride, which possibly could include a couple of blows, or a rape here and a brawl there. Or, of when they would make it big in the city, as promised by their immediate employers. Some young girls looked into yellowed pages of hand-down books, while others looked at the trains, longingly, with dead dreams in their eyes.

This was a customary noticing of things, as they were, everyday, when Naina returned from her college in the uptown suburb. It never seemed unnatural that the train flashed past by each sight in under a second. She was gifted with the pleasure of timing, and could unfold an incident belonging to another in as quick as a whiff. She seemed distanced today, indifferent. She returned to the tracks after a span of having changed tracks. The familiarity annoyed her and the earphones could not shut out the impossible overpowering of the sense of waste that the cosmetic settlement brought along.

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