The train jerks to a halt, the metal wheels screeching against the rails, momentarily piercing through the drone of noises in the station. Picking up my duffel bag and grabbing the door handle to steady myself, I stare out at the maddening crowd of people all around.
Hawkers and taxi drivers and stationmasters and masses of men – it surprises me as to how the ground doesn’t crumble under their weight.
Stepping out of the train into the light of a scorching autumn sun, I take a moment to look around and breathe in the air. A smell if roasted peanuts coupled with a faint aroma of lemon oil teases the breeze.
Somewhere a hawker screams at the stray dogs that are running away with s piece of his bread. To my right, a coolie picks up the luggage of an old Lady, wincing under the weight of the blue suitcases. He complains and asks her to pay more as he starts walking, dragging the other bag behind him. Somewhere far away, a little boy sells newspapers, shrieking wildly, running after every person, hoping they’d buy a copy.
Silence is evasive as a xerox machine next to a shop, whirs and clicks, throwing sheets of paper all around. The owner shouts at the boy who is serving customers at the counter and he immediately comes to the rescue. Together, they slam the metal top to shut the machine.
Heels click against the gravel pavement. A little boy who us wearing a pair of oversized bunny slippers, jumps on every drying puddle, clapping his hands in excitement.
It is an unusually noisy Sunday.
But amidst all this, I find a deep sense of oblivion.
Nobody seems bothered. Everyone walks their own wat, occasionally stopping by to take a look here and there. Children hold on to their mothers, tight, while the men load the luggage into the train. Some people are leaving while some are returning back from where they had arrived.
As the evening air quietly blows, I can’t help but spread my arms and take a deep breath. It smells of home.
As if on cue, a frail man dressed in a pair of white pants and a grey shirt, approaches me.
“Madam ji,” he says. “Are you looking for a taxi?”
A slight gasp of surprise leaves my mouth as I withdraw my hands and shove them into the pockets of my overcoat.
“Why,yes!” I reply him after some time.
“Where to?” he asks but doesn’t wait for a reply. Instead, he picks up my bag and motions me to follow him.
“I’ve parked my taxi just there,” he talks as he manoeuvres around the people who’ve fallen asleep on the platform.
As we walk past the swirling rush of people, hearing a plethora of noises zooming into a drone, I can’t help but feel a strange peace within me. The noises don’t affect me.
With a slight spring in my steps, I walk out of the station into the slightly thick air of the parking lot. Every second fills my heart with profound happiness.
I watch him put my bags at the back of the car. Before he gets inside the taxi, he motions me to take the backseat.
Pulling open the door, I glance back at the station again. It seems as if it is moving away from me with each passing second.
Soon, I tell myself, I’ll be home. The little daisies in the garden will greet me and a bowl of corn soup will be waiting at the table.
Mom will be sitting in the living room, sipping in her usual cup of tea and flipping through the pages of some random magazine. Outside, on the street, my brother will be playing with his friends, crying in joy with the other children. And Dad will be glued to the TV screen, watching the latest political debate. They will be waiting for me. They will be calling to each other and sneaking glances at the clock, waiting for me to ring the bell. And when I will, they will rush to the door and hug me like there will be no tomorrow.
“Madam ji,” the driver’s gruff voice breaks me from my train of thought. “Where to?”
Slipping into the backseat and peeling down the windows, I feel the same air brush against my face again.
“Home,” I say and he smiles.