Monday, 2 October 2017
Bengaluru City Central Railway station, on an average morning, waits for no one. It does not hesitate, not for a minute. It’s throbbing with activity, of passengers planning to board, purchasing tickets to make that possible, or having a cup of coffee getting ready for a long journey. Some people are making their way through the cheap pages of the Daily, or the glossy ones in a magazine, until their respective trains chug into the real world, and they bid each other farewell in that collective space of reading minds they had shared thus far. There is an enforced patience everywhere, in the waiting rooms, on benches, on the floor,where, deep in sleep, no one has realized that the day has begun. Some people are embarking on their journey, yet others are finally at their destination, looking forward to whatever it is that they have awaiting them in this city. There are ten platforms and a world of itself here in this giant of a railway station.
Despite the plethora of stories it had at offer, as I left the place, only one sight stayed on with me.
She caught my attention as I walked down the steps that lead to the subway. The staircase is divided into two halves using a railing, for facilitating the movement of people up and down. A sea of people go past each other on this staircase. People who do not have the time to think about anything else but themselves. About how their impending train journey is going to be, or how the city will treat them that day.
Amidst all this hustle, one soul remained still, sitting on the third step from the top, close to the leg of the railing. A lone figure of quietude, unnoticed by the rest of the world.
She was old and had an expressionless face. She wore a torn and dusty saree, that did not hide the frailty of her body. Her dark, skinny hands clung to the railing, but her mind seemed to have wandered off elsewhere. Her eyes were lost in some dream. It was certain that they weren’t focussed on the unceasing crowd of this railway station. And once I glanced at them, I couldn’t think of anything else for a very long time. What was it, that had captivated her mind right then?
She must be imagining what her daughter was doing right then. Would she have left for office? Would her husband be asking for his fourth cup of tea in the morning, and simultaneously applying oil onto his hair preparing for the bath? Would her son in law be pouring over the newspaper, with sheets spread wide on the floor? Would her granddaughter be getting ready for school, plaiting her long her and tying it with a blue ribbon? What would her other daughter be doing right now? She is a teacher, it’s almost time for her to leave for school, and she must be running around the house filling her lunch box and water bottle. Was her grandson still in bed, planning to skip breakfast and sleep some more? Would her baby great grandson have woken up by now? Would he be wailing for his morning bottle of milk? And where was her other granddaughter? Oh yes, she went to Bangalore yesterday night. She would have reached Bengaluru Central Railway Station by now. Would she be able to find her way well in that big city…?
Panic cast its distressing shadow over the chain of my thoughts and I shook myself out of it as soon as I realized what was going on. This old woman, sitting on the stairs, had taken on the face and form of my own Grandmother. If existence was a phenomenon emanating from or centred about a focal point, this thought had set mine into flames. I had to pause to calm my inner world and convince it that Ammamma is fine. I had to conjure up an image of her in her Mundu and Veshti with a Thorthu wrapped around her long, ivory shaded hair, wet from a bath. I had to see her in the home she had nurtured on her own, plucking out the weeds in her garden or tending to the spinach cultivation. I by some means, had to see that smile and the ringing laughter, which has never been and can never be replaced by another for the rest of my time.
The same fate that had left this old woman uncared and unwanted here, in the dusk of her life as someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s grandmother, could have easily tossed its dice and fallen upon a person you call your own. As for this grandma, sitting motionless, staring into a non-existent future, I wonder if there really is someone, who had, out of choice, or out of having no choice, committed the sin of pushing her into isolation in a brutally cold world. And if it hasn’t already, I envisage the focal point of that someone dissolving into nothingness.