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The train that came late

How to handle a tough wait on the platform

I had this aching pain in my legs, which reminded me that I had been standing for an hour on the platform of the railway station in my town, waiting for a train that never seemed to turn up. My back hurt because of my high heels, and it was scorching hot — which invited my good friend Mr. Headache to take charge.

The kind woman making announcements said she regretted the delay but her voice didn't convey any regret, which fuelled great amounts of irritation and also courage in me. So I left my luggage there and marched into the station master’s office and ended up nodding my head to whatever he said as though I was hearing it for the first time. It was the same thing I have been hearing for an hour now and from some ten years earlier.

“Your train is late by an hour. We deeply regret the delay.”

Only his voice wasn’t as mechanical as that of the lady making the announcements over the public address system on the platform.

“Now, will you stop regretting and do something?” I blurted out before I could stop myself. The courage of an irritated person never ceases to amuse me. And more amusing is the fact that I always fall prey to that amazing, courage awakening feeling called anger. The station master gave me a pitiful look. “I understand, madum. It is hard. But I can't do anything about this. You see, I'm not driving the train.”

“So will the driver take the blame?”

Arrey madumji, what will the poor fellow do? You know, no? There is a new track being laid. So he had to take a different route.”

“So the people involved with that construction work are to be blamed for the delay?”

Nah. Nah. I didn't say that. They can't do anything when government didn't sign the document papers, no?”

I was losing my patience.

“So it’s done then I will write a letter to the government taking these frequent delays of trains. You think this railway station with no fan and shed is a meditation hall, to just sit there and meditate on ‘Train will come.’ ‘Train will come.’ We can't keep silence anymore,” I said, and took a deep breath to control my high blood pressure. But that fellow was stronger than I was.

“No. Madumji, you can't do that. You can't blame the government you voted for. Very wrong ji.” he said, adding that “ji” needlessly. I stood there dumbstruck as though he had slapped me.

Five minutes later I found myself on the bench under the sun, the place where I had meditated before I broke my penance and ran into the station master’s office like a dutiful citizen of the nation and an avid reader of the Constitution of India, questioning the injustice suffered by an ignorant passenger. The whole thing was so pointless.

Hello, respected station master ji, the train I am to board is running late and you don't take the blame. And more horribly, blame me? But I didn't say anything because if I go again this time he might not even say “ji” after my name or he might tell me that I drove the Malaysian aircraft that went missing somewhere. God knows where. So I kept quiet.

Ten years ago, when I came to India after leaving the United States for good, my parents told me Indian citizens were the most responsible people in the whole world. I thought they were exaggerating, but I think I believe it now, because here I’m sitting in the waiting hall of the railway station of my native town, after meeting my grandparents and cousins after a really long time. Tired with body pains and carrying the complete blame for the delay in the train I was going to board. So I ignored my aching legs.

Took my heels off and sat cross-legged even though people around me gave awkward stares and did a wonderful job of ignoring Mr. Headache. After some time he felt humiliated and left. Exactly after three hours later, I boarded the train that took me to the city.

adisyam2001@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 10:21:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-train-that-came-late/article23629052.ece

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