The Whistling Train

How beautiful that moment was, when I was reading Chandamama by the window-side of the train, while the Sun set in the west, and the train rushed through the countryside, making up for the lost time in the numerous earlier stops. The compartment was getting roomy after each stop. We were nearing our destination every second. It was that time of the day when we could relax our arms and feet in the empty seat after a punishing afternoon sun in May. I looked around and life moved before my eyes. Water gushed out of the taps. The bhel-puri wallah had washed his face. The tramp who was travelling without a ticket now opened the door and streched out his legs at the entrance. We were right in the countryside, and we had ourselves and the setting Sun with us to savour the moment. The train whistled a long whistle to complete the experience.

In the waning light, I turned to the text in my hands. I had ‘This month in history’ section open before me on crisp brown coloured paper. May Day was the moment. A new breed of humans had been created. The working class. The working class had moved into the city for a better life. The working class is made of numerous families whose stories didn’t differ much, or didn’t matter: the man and the woman and occasionally a child. The working class was not a class at all in the beginning. They were just slaves put to hazardous, thankless jobs that filled the pockets of the capitalists. Working conditions were harsh and humans were as dispensable as the machines that they operated. Very soon the working class was cornered: when you corner an animal it can do only one thing. Fight back. And how! May Day is a testimony to the fighting spirit of the working class that brought in weekends, fixed working hours and minimum pay. It is a reminder that workers’ lives are as important and valuable as their masters’.

*

The tube lights were soon switched on; when the tube light is switched on, you close your eyes and wish for a good evening. The air cooled down a bit and it made the dust on our faces less irksome. Soon enough, the train pulled up at a station where the lights were on too. But they were lights showing an afternoon that was lost, not an evening that had set in. For that we had to wait till the next station. And soon, we were at the terminus, where we were picked up from and driven home.

Getting down from the train with our tired faces and heavy baggage, I could not but wonder if I belonged to the place. It was seven thirty in the evening and everyone but me knew that it was seven thirty in the evening. Temple bells rang busily. People went about their businesses normally. Bikes and cars throttled past to wake me up to become one with the place I was brought into by that whistling train. My mind was still at the sunset and my reading about May Day. I do not know where the place was, but I knew if I followed the tracks past two stations (or more) I would pass by that place where I had experienced the melancholy. Workers did thankless jobs because their lives depended on them. The masters held them with a vise like grip. The world had not seen prosperity on such a large scale. Factories were erected, profits were made, lives were lived. None of it exists today but the memories. You can flip through those pages and know all about it. But you will come back to the world and not be sure if you are the only one who had seen it the way you had seen it. You can never know. It is just like the sunset on that whistling train.

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