I took the train today. While waiting on the platform for it to arrive, another going in the opposite direction slowed down to a halt at the other end of the platform. And as it crossed the platform, I saw it as if for the first time.
Men stood loosely near the footboard, hanging onto the pole and the overhead chains, dark-skinned, wearing colourful t-shirts matted with dirt. They looked cursorily over me, continuing to look ahead, behind me. Suddenly, I felt an intense affection for them.
I climbed my own train with this sense warming my insides. I looked at the women in my compartment, looked into their asymmetrical faces, the beauty lurking in their kajal-rimmed squint eyes. What intelligence, what brilliance, what innocence, what experience they carry in them, their faces betraying in every line and twitch a trauma, a pain, a longing, a desire. They tell a story and I have but to attend.
I felt a surge of a tender emotion, a warmth for the train and its unknown (to me) passengers that seemed to rise out of nowhere. Is this what others feel when they say that they love their city? This isolated tenderness for one of its many, many, many aspects? This sense of affection that emerges from a latent inkling that these people have the same claim on the city and all the tools that help them inhabit it, such as this train?
These bearers of stories, my city people. What could I excavate if I could dig through the meshes of community, religion, gender, class, age that hold back their human stories? But who am I to be a casual and indifferent audience to them in the first place? Why do I deserve their tales? What could I make of them? What could anyone make of the million stories haunting the ever sleepless streets of my city, keeping it awake by their bare naked humanness?