The minute I stepped on to the platform, the train arrived.
What luck. I pushed in with the crowd, hurried to find a seat, found one, sat down. I fished out my phone and earphones, joined them to me, the new-age veins growing out of my ears streaming music inside me, I one with my phone.
The trains of the Harbour line were always so dirty. Dusty, with dirt lodged on its seats between several layers of peeled and peeling paint.
It was early in the morning, the birds incessantly chirped and the streetlights slowly turned off. Out of nowhere, I thought of the park I usually passed by on my way to the station. Today, as every day, I saw women wearing sports shoes under a cloak of black burqa taking their daily walks in the park. Outside the park meanwhile, the usual businesses of the chai-wala, kulfi-wala, sandwich-wala, was just stirring –
And that brought sudden insight to me. The memory of movement outside that park. The vendors – moving about and around their stalls, opening them for business, wiping their wares, wiping glasses and plates clean – would perform the same routine in the evening, too. When I would walk home from the station at the end of the day today, I was sure to find the vendors busily wiping their plates and glasses, after washing the remains of food and drink off them, before they shut shop.
Aha. Weren’t dawn and dusk twins, then, mirror images of a strange kind? For the chirping of the birds was as incessant and frenzied in the evenings as in the mornings. There were burqa-clad women who walked with measured vigour both at the beginning and the close of the day. The streetlights mirrored the act in their turning on for the night, instead of off, which they would for a new morning. Even the platform swelled with people armed with their office bags at either ends of the day.
There was a moment, I mused, one moment that appeared twice in a day. No, perhaps there exists two moments in our time on earth that are so alike, that one could be easily exchanged for another. Or mistaken for another. If I were to wake up from a long deep sleep that spanned ages, and if I happened to wake up in one such moment, I wouldn’t know if it were a new day or a new night to come.
It is as if the world hangs upon two poles made of Time, and Time has recruited these two moments in its stead, representing it. The world passes through these two, one at a time, in a constant loop of days following nights following days sans our ever knowing, tangibly, which moment belongs where in time.
I alighted from the train, dazed and disoriented out of this reverie-like chain of thoughts. A man walked ahead of me. He had a bald patch on the back of his head. He wore a white shirt and blue trousers, and had hung his office bag diagonally across his torso. I walked behind him towards the overhead bridge, briskly, immediately sympathising with him as a fellow nine-to-five-er. His shoulders were stooped and there was a ring of grime under his collar where it touched the skin on his nape. My eyes were focussed on the grime, still following him as we climbed the stairs, as we began walking along the bridge. We descended the stairs on the opposite platform. I expected him to walk out of the platform out the station and land on the road, swiftly making his way towards his mundane job. But when he got off the last step, he stopped. A moment passed. Then, he edged towards the end of the opposite platform, and cocked his head towards the direction from where the trains would arrive, as if awaiting their arrival to take us back home.
I was confused. I went up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, said, “Didn’t you just come from that direction? Weren’t you going for work?”
He looked at me, confused, said, “Work is over, madam, look at the time.”
I did. It was seven o’clock. The birds were chirping. It was twilight. The air was cold. The platform was filling up with more and more and more people.