A Night Journey By Train - Poem by Valsa George
After a hazardous trip from a far off district
With drooping spirits and waning energy
I alighted at the station to catch the night train
My heart besieged by memories of a home, left behind
Like a drop in the ocean
I quickly merged with the buzzing crowd
In the blinking light of platform lamps
I saw a huge crowd- the young and the old
With baggage heaped on baggage
Patiently waiting for the arrival of the train
Soon came the grating voice of the loud speaker
“The Rajadhani Express from Delhi to Trivandrum
Scheduled to leave the station by 9pm
Would be late by one hour’!
I went cold at the thought of another long wait.
In the sweltering heat of a summer night,
Amid an undulating mass and deafening holler and roar
It would be hell tied there for one more hour.
The cry of babies fell in my ears like the squeal of piglets
Some old women sat on haunches on the floor,
Before some homemade food and snacks
Spread out on old newspapers and began munching
Youngsters busied themselves on their cell phones
Sending missives to their loved ones
Or chatting with their pals
I sat away secluded, inhaling the soot and dust
And looking vacantly at the curl of smoke
From the grumpy looking man’s cigar
Sitting opposite to me lazily
When his red falcon eyes fell on me,
I withdrew more into cover,
Regretting once more, being a woman!
The thought of the risks of travelling alone
Made my guts contract
I saw behind the thick columns of concrete
A young pair who had sneaked away from the crowd
A newly wedded Rajasthani couple, the girl in shining livery
With a red patch of ‘kumkum’ on her forehead!
She wore glittering bangles on her hands
Covering the entire forearms
They were in a world of their own
Enjoying the first days of heated romance
She laid her head upon his chest
And her arms, twisted around him as a creeper on a tree
In her ear, as the boy was reciting the litany of love
The girl was giggling as if greatly tickled
Time slouched on at snail’s pace….
At last hearing a long drawn whistle from far
I looked out and saw the train coming, snorting noisily
And halting with a screeching sound
The real ordeal begins as one lifts his suitcase
And pushes his way along with all strength,
Between bags and boxes and people,
And the porters running after to carry the cargo
At the doorway, the swarming crowd
Locks one altogether, pushing and jostling.
Elbowing my way through the mass of men
I got into the compartment somehow
And found myself among total strangers
Shoving my suit case between legs of people
And pushing it under the seat, I sat near the window.
All my former fears resurfaced with ugly pincers
Being late, all readied themselves to sleep
Though I lay down with my eyes closed
I couldn’t wink an eye,
I knew the train gaining momentum
And heading forward leaving behind
The dark silhouette of buildings and trees
As it hurtled through tunnels,
The air grew thick and humid.
I felt cramped and confined like a piece of freight
Transported in a narrow box with the lid shut
I don’t know when I fell into deep slumber
It was with the sound of ‘chai…. chai’ that I woke up
The glittering sun rays peeped through the window
I felt the pat of cool morning breeze on my cheeks
The inviting aroma of brewed tea entered my nostrils
At last I have reached my native soil!
I am heading home, every step and every inch
Drawing me closer and closer to my sweet haven
My heart began to pump quicker
I felt like a marooned mariner
Suddenly cast ashore by a rescue boat!
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