If you live in Kolkata, you have got to love the metros. They are economical, on time, and gets you to your destination faster. With each corner of this city bleeding heritage and culture, the underground wheels mark a modern twist.
The routine is to rummage my purse to dig out my daily passenger card. I like the wait looking up the big black box hung near a same sized television with red digital numbers displaying when the next train arrives. Mostly the TV plays a government initiated instructional video as how not to crowd a train. As evolved beings, we need a PPT, turned animated stick figures to ensure we don’t stick our huge belly when the door is closing. If you don’t fit, just step out! Last, I remember it was called,common sense.
Usually if I’m travelling alone, my headphones are a must. I have a curated playlist for when the phone goes offline underground. Once the train is arriving, the strobing headlights gets everyone ready to board stepping almost beyond the bold yellow waiting line. I prefer a ‘less’ crowded compartment, standing-holding the bar or leaning against the separators – the aim is to find a cozy spot! After I am done selecting the song depending on my mood, comes my favorite part; to observe my co-passengers — couples lost in their world, some young person sitting on the old citizen section, a girl playing on her phone or talking loudly to a friend, a boy staring back right at me (wait, I’m doing the same).
This time I hopped onto a deserted bogey and for a change, decided to sit down for the next stop. Two tiny hands barring the gates opened it ajar. Panting she entered grabbing one of the hangers tightly as possible. The door jerked a bit before finally shutting close behind her. I’d usually take one glance and get back to my screen, but I took a long hard stare. Before me stood a woman with bright pink hair up until her waist, she wore a hoodie under her blazer matching it with high-rise sox and oversized sneakers for a super-casual look. She wore sunglasses inside the train? I tried to notice her face but couldn’t until she took a seat right opposite me.
Realising I was staring for longer than usual, I adjusted my eyes with a quick glance around fixating right back at her. By this time, the train has entered the underground tunnel, going at a sprightly speed. She finally removed her sunglasses. Her kohl filled eyes looked smudged, not by overdoing it, more like unintentionally. She looked up right at me – with bloodshot red eyes and tears rolling down her left cheek. Shocked by her glance, I looked away for a second and tried to immediately look from the corner of my eye. She took out a transparent tube with yellow pills inside and gulped a few down. Gently wiping off her tears, she looked down as if feeling the uneasiness of being that vulnerable in a public place. Instantly I felt attracted towards her, my mind luring me wanting to know her story. I wasn’t going to approach her when she’s feeling like the world is crashing around her. No! That would be too insensitive. Rather my puny heart manifested a scenario for her instead.
Her crying was inaudible which detected an intense let-your-heart out cry early on. She definitely looked 25 which could probably mean she was headed out and was returning after whatever shattered her. Her face was whiter than a skull, with wide, livid scarlet eyes and nostrils that were as flared as a rosebud. She nervously kept locking and unlocking her phone unsure of what she actually wanted to do.
The tellers voice echoed in reverb making me realise I’m about to get off the next station. I hurriedly looked inside my purse and grabbed a tissue and a pen. I wrote down:
“Tough times never last, but tough people do :)"
It’s my favourite quote by Robert.H.Schuller. It’s a constant reminder for the days I was almost touching rock bottom, ready to give up. I double marked the eyes of the smiley to ensure it’s not a deformed face and got up casually to walk towards the gate. As I shakily moved towards her, she looked up at me almost instantly. I mustered the courage to look straight in her eyes and hand over the paper. Watching her eyeballs shifting on each word I wrote, she looked back at me and smiled. The smile on her face reflected in her bright eyes. Her beauty warms her dark soul with its light. Nothing is as powerful as your smile. It highlights your strength, and it shows a glimpse into your own soul. It says what other people would shut up about. It opens doors, roads, and worlds.