The Looking Glass

1145hrs. Sambalpur Junction.

A tiring 24 hrs train journey has left me unsettled. I am resting in the deserted part of the stretching end of the platform. Anxiety for the test/interview is growing with each seconds passing. The clock in the platform is still, as much as the people-mostly beggars, laborers-lying lifelessly. Occasional announcements form the nearest mike are like yet another caution to stay up in a relatively unknown place, though with a dieing voice. Horribly spread on the concrete square are some of my books, the last ditch of attempt I am putting in, despite eyes giving up.

I hear steps, intensifying gradually and then fading away. Next chance I don’t spare. Looking upon, a man in his thirties is spotted walking up to me. I am beefing up myself for the interaction, as he passes.

Attired in what sometime was a denim jeans, now turned to rages, he is no unusual. A face- pot-black, unshaven and deadpan. He is perspiring like coming home in a dog day noon, with yet another disappointment. He walks past the booking counter, past some excited travelers, past the sleepy hawker, past the lone and curious foreign tourist, past a child beggar counting coins, past a long distance – quite and stinky, almost unnoticing, unfascinated. Reaching near to me, rotates his head in a well calculated manner giving a glance, as short as possible, walks past, again some distance next to a dead engine in the second track. I wait for another chance, from the dark end I emerge. Skin tarred, beard covering most of the non-essential part of the face, the Levi’s denim unwashed and torn, and the shirt borrowed from the platform man i have just witnessed roaming aimlessly. I walk past the myself, look at the books for a fleeting moment, move on to the long quite and stinky space, past my nephew playing with his aeroplane, past Kabita, past my friend sleepy, dreamy, my family desperately waving their hands, past the burning canteen, pat the booking counter.

A cold feeling like a snake round my shoulders returns. Amazed I face a younger one asking me, “ First year he be kya?” A sudden urge to restore the manners forgotten, makes him withdraw his snake like slender, boneless and cold-blooded arm as I say “ no, I am in ****”, almost as hesitantly as the platform man would have spoken to me.

Fire has engulfed the lonely shop-cum-canteen, darkness is drowning the fire slowly, increasingly. The platform man has disappeared.

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