Bangalore Cantt.

Everything looks golden. The gables, the roof, the rails, even the shit on the tracks. The winter sun comes gently up from behind a line of rain trees. Light streams through glass fronted gaps in the roof. Beams bestowing warmth to those who seek it on the ground.

It is quiet. Immensely quiet. For a public space.

Farida is raising swirls of dust in rhythmic motion with the broom. They rise up, circle around her and fall back to the ground. Only to be pushed a further ahead near the collecting pan. A few stray particles enter the beams of light. They shine like imperfect diamonds. She’s wearing a bright blue saree. The white blouse is stained, wrinkled and torn around the edges. “I take an hour to sweep one platform”, she says weakly. Years of poor protection have taken out an lung. She wheezes along to the station manager’s office.

There’s a faint aroma of coffee brewing and banana bread baking.

AS Rao is as genial as ever. “How are you, saar?”, he beams. As usual, he is dressed indifferently. A loose, white shirt that has seen several hundreds dips in bluish whitening wash liquid. A pair of black trousers that clearly have seen better days. Pleats are non-existent and the waist buckle, with is fraying edges, is precipitously close to shaming him in public. Most comically of all, he wears a black blazer that is several sizes larger than his small frame. It hangs over his small like a cheap curtain. I am about to engage him when he darts across and accosts a young lady. “Where is ticket?”. The lady has been caught. He escorts her across to his office. Beaming. Proud. His eyes twinkling like a cat who’s just discovered a quart of cream.

Strong air of crisp vadas being fried. The splash of mustard seeds in hot oil for the coconut chutney.

The light now is blindingly white. Enveloping the mouth of the platform canopy. I half expect the ghost of Peter Johnson to drive a train through the white. The proud, red locomotive burning through wisps. He on the footplate, leaning out, tall. Waving his green flag in the textbook swirling manner. One toot. Never more. “Those people down there have ears, you know, boy?”, whenever I used to hold the horn paddle for an extra second. There’s a sigh. There are a couple of tears. There’s a wry chuckle.

Bangalore Cantt.