It was agreed among my college pals for a meetup in Aminjikarai. So, I planned to reach Thambram from my place by bus; taking city Train to Nungambakkam, there; and to reach the meetup place through shared auto services, from Nungambakkam. City public transport travel, for me, are the data warehouse of stories; a point – of convergence of diverse class and culture, of convergence of vastly varied shades of life. City grown school kids with headphone and iPad, lovebirds from public schools – obedient boys of governing girls, immigrant working class lovebirds of Apollo and Daphne kind, love birds talking in nano decibels, political tale dwellers, people of special needs, people of unfavorable disposition, trans-women, suspicious observers, silent spectators and all life of theirs that accompany and reflect through them. Something that a library alone can take you through, otherwise.
A woman perhaps in her sixties and an old man much older than her; for whom, I presume, Thambram railway platform has become the living place, as I have seen them almost everyday of my commute to work. He – UV blocking black glasses beneath which a green cloth protecting an eye, a skull cap over all-greyed hair, just surviving body covered with his rugged pant and shirt, a talk and laughter of returning childishness. She – equally shared scalp population between dark and grey, a calmness of lost life, lean, tall and weak. They don’t look to me as having any remotely connect by flesh and blood but by poverty and its endowed suffering.
I have never seen her talking to him. He would say something and smile to her at times, she would turn her eye to him with a stolid face, as her all capable acknowledgement. Nevertheless, Her senseless acknowledgement doesn’t put his expression down, he just carries on being excited, happy and content.
Wherever they have to go, to buy food or to eat, he would pick his shirt at the back and pull it towards her and say, “Hold this..”. She does obey. They seem to have understood each other’s need – he feels less insecure of his age with someone to have a watch on him which he hides by saying “don’t go missing”; she feels a little less hungry with his help with food, where his age becomes resourceful to make people lend some money.
That day, when I was waiting for train to Nungambakkam, he was counting all his money he had saved – “one seventy, one seventy five, one eighty.. if I get one, two, three, four”, he stretched his folded fingers for each number uttered, “five rupees, I will reach two hundred.. God, do you know – so much money it is..!” he was excited.
She acknowledged with her usual stolid face.
Someone in that place and I watching this scene, smiled at eachother about it. The other train waiter eventually pulled up twenty rupees form his pocket and gave it to the old man. Reaching his two hundred, old man out-laughed, threw his both hands in air up and down. Laughter of atmost rejoice.
Boarding the train, I felt strangely empty.
In one of an intermediate station, train stopped, people rushed through the door to take a seat, among them was a lady catching my eye, with an expression of physical pain in her face as she climbed into the train. Muddy feet, torn slipper stitched, long uncombed grey hair.
I stood-up from my seat and nodded at her to take my seat, she said no. Rather showing her hand towards her mouth and then at me, asked for money. I gave her some and took my seat, as all eyes turned at me.
Out of nowhere, I felt embarrassed.
“Why?”, asked the other one inside my skin. I had no immediate answer.
I later reflected upon my reason for the embarrassment, then; only to be cringed of a greater embarrassment unleashing upon my own self. At times, socially accepted are the taboos.