5 August 2016


Through a pair of square spectacles, he gazes at the vacant tracks beside his stationary train, wondering how long this stop would last. He stretches - his arms - upwards and back (while seated between a middle-aged woman and an old man on a seat meant for two), having to look away from the window awkwardly when the woman turns quizzically in his direction.

Seeing a girl seated a few rows ahead re-reading the clues to the daily crossword, his brow wrinkles, probably reminded of his now-discarded pastime, or would it be a memory of the time he taught his daughter to solve the easy clues first?

The train pulls out of Vapi and the man lets out an inaudible sigh of relief. A breeze would now pick up with the motion, saving him the effort of wiping his balding pate of silvery beads of sweat.

He grimaces while exercising his neck - turning left, the old man is picking his nose now, then (almost cricking the cartilage) turns right. Looks up, there's the soot-encrusted and now-obsolete Railways-installed fan, and finally down to his weathered shoes. He wonders if the ride would be any less of a strain if he wasn't five-eleven and unprepared.

As if on cue, a visibly expecting mother approaches with a crying child in tow, asking for a seat to anyone not pretending to be asleep or purposefully preoccupied. Feeling duty-bound, he rises to offer his legitimate seat.

There is enough room to stand in the compartment, but he walks towards the open door.

Meeting the triumphant stares of the ticket-less, apathetic and collectively depraved populace, with his impulsive goodwill slowly sublimating to leave a prickly sense of counterfeit chivalry - would have been too much to bear.

Beholding nature with the strong breeze washing across, he leans at the door now, and lights a cigarette. He sighs, exhaling deeply.

Probably the weightlessness was reward enough.

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