Friday, April 09, 2010

Ringus Summers

Just past noon the train slowly pulls into Ringus, one of those blink and you miss towns on the edge of the Rajasthani desert. It's June, and it is roasting, the heat somehow managing to sear through the air-conditioned windows as well. Nevertheless, I get out and stroll down the platform. In seconds, beads of sweat are trickling behind my ears.

For a town of few thousand, the station is surprisingly teeming. A large family is spread out on old newspapers and trunks under the somewhat comforting shade of the platform canopy. The alpha male in his tattered vest and frayed trousers is sleeping contentedly, his train not due for hours I guess. There is the usual huddle of men around the tea stall discussing the fate of the ruling party in the upcoming elections.

A few with empty bottles run down the length of the platform stopping at the taps which perhaps ran dry months ago. Lifting them only results in a hollow hiss, the hot air in the pipes relieved to be released. Desperate, they look around, a woman with an infant among them. Her gaze settles on the bright blue water bottles displayed proudly at the tea stall. A bold hand painted sign proclaims TEN RUPEES per bottle. A day's earning for her perhaps.

Just then, the semaphore drops. The engine lets out a loud hoot and slowly starts pulling out with the rest of the train in tow. With no option left, she clambers back in to the packed coaches. Still by the door she sees an old man with two jerry cans of water dangling from either end of a bamboo staff, labour in. The look on the old man's face as the train pulls away matches hers as he recedes into the distance. Unable to take it any more, I close my door and head back to my seat - one of those cold ten rupee water bottles lying there .......

1 comment:

adesh said...

terrific work of writing, a very touching and sad reality of life, paisa ya pani?