Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Man Sat On The Unused Track Staring At The Salt Pans And Contemplating His Life.

Kieran liked to sit on the unused iron rail. He'd been staying in the building opposite the track even before engineers surveyed the site. He was there when labourers worked through the unsheltered heat and the blackness of the night to lay the track and as trains passed by on the two working tracks beside it, even though none of them made their way over to this loner. He wondered why.

Once upon a time, the land opposite the building, on the other side of the tracks, was full of salt pans. Now, they were all gone. He had heard that buildings were going to rise, seven or more storeys tall, singing out to the skies above. Roads, grey as the monsoon skies, were to be built. The West would finally be populated. But on marshy land, how?

Every morning between seven and eight when the sun was behind his back and not yet strong enough, he sat on the unused rail track pondering things he had never thought of earlier while standing on his balcony.

It was one such day. The 745 Churchgate had just passed him by. He'd leave in twelve minutes. A group of boys passed him by, wanting to play a game of cricket on the hardened land. One of the boys--his name was Roy, though Kieran would never learn of it--stood over him.

"Why do you sit here every day? Come, play with us."

"No, I'm not interested in playing. Why don't you sit with me?" he countered.

Roy thought for a second and sat beside him. The boys hollered at him, but Roy just waved at them. Another train passed behind, the 748 Virar.

"I stay two buildings next to yours. I see you every day here."

"Yes, I like this spot. It's peaceful."

"What if a train stands at this place one day? Where will you go?"

"I doubt this track will remain stranded forever, but I'll decide when that happens; trains have never made their way to this track so far."

"Oh, I never knew that. Why do you think they made this track then?"

"God knows."

Roy remained silent.

"Do you know why you were born?" Kieran spoke again.


"Good. Because I don't know either the reason I was born. We can't explain our own purpose. What can we know about this track?"

Roy just nodded in agreement. The cricket looked inviting now.

Another train whizzed past, the 749 Churchgate.

Kieran spoke again, "I like sitting here. There's noise, there's quiet. It's maddening and peaceful at the same time. How many places like that do you know?"


"Well, you know one now."

Kieran looked towards the boys hitting the ball hard, playing towards the tracks.

"Aren't you concerned that one of you could come under a train while fetching the ball from the tracks?"

"Yes, but what else can we do anyway? There's nowhere else we can play."

The 753 Virar passed by.

"I'll leave in five. Then you can go play with your friends."

"Oh. I was enjoying this. What time do you come here? I'll come earlier tomorrow."

"I'm here at seven. But I don't think you'll see me here again."

"Why not?"

"I enjoyed the solitude."

"Oh. I'm sorry, I didn't know I disturbed you."

"No, no. It isn't your fault. You're curious and it's a good thing to be."

Kieran looked back.

"That's the 757 Churchgate. I'll take your leave now." Kieran stood up.

"You know what I liked most about this place? The unrestricted view. And it'll all be gone one day. Goodbye!"

Roy looked on as Kieran waited till the 757 passed by on track two. He turned around to look at the stark land in front of him. He then heard ghastly screams. The boys stopped playing and the ball went, as it was left unprotected, to the square leg boundary. Roy turned around. The 758 Virar had hit Kieran.

The next day, at seven, Roy walked past the tracks, carefully looking both sides before crossing, eager to sit at the same spot as Kieran. It was no longer unused though as a tired train had finally found its resting home there.

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