It was a hot summer day at Nagpur Railway Station. I sat on a stray bench, on a stray platform, beside a stray dog, as I watched the railway tracks glisten in the sun. I was waiting for the Mumbai – bound train to arrive. A thick bead of sweat ran down my cheek, neck and down my shirt. The gradual increase in the rattle of the tracks told me of the arrival of a train. It passed through without stopping and evidently wasn’t the train I was here for. Just as I had seen the last bogey disappear from the station, I thought I heard the shrill cry of a man.
I dismissed the thought as a random mixup of various noises of the train. A few minutes later, however, I saw a crowd gathering at the far end of the station, their murmurs growing louder with each passing minute, till it was no longer ignorable. As I figured I had at least a few more minutes before my train arrived, I decided to head over and see the cause of the commotion.
What I saw, eliminated the thought from my head, that the cry I had heard, earlier was just my imagination. It appeared a man had indeed emitted the cry. He now lay at the centre of the huddle of people that I had seen when I sat on the stray bench, beside the stray dog.
He was very young, probably in his mid – twenties. His entire left side was covered in blood – unfortunately his own – and his hand looked like it had been fastened by the uncoordinated hands of a four – year old. The left side of his face was devoid of most natural features and his sinew and blood vessels were clearly visible. His legs ‘looked’ fine, but an elderly man’s attempt at making him stand up, ruled out that fact very gruesomely, for we heard a loud crack from the man’s knees. His entire appearance gave a very vivid feeling and I began feeling sick in the stomach, the more I looked at the man.
For some time, I stood there watching, in complete disbelief. After a while, the people wanted to move the man to a safer place, probably the ticket – booth, where first aid could be administered. Some people had already rung up the boy’s brother, whose telephone number he had produced. It seemed as if he did not want to disclose his carelessness’s consequences to his parent(s). I helped the younger lot of the crowd to carry the man to the ticket – booth and just as I had finished doing so I saw the train, my train, rumble and grumble into the station. It let out a satisfying hissing sound as it did so.
I sprinted back to the stray bench to find the stray dog circling my bag and baggage as if loyally guarding it. I always kept some dry fruits in my shirt pocket. Smiling, I tossed a few groundnuts at the dog, despite knowing his taste, patted him on the head, picked up my bags and walked to the train door. I looked back at the stray platform, stray bench and the stray dog sniffing the groundnuts, said a small prayer for the injured man and boarded the train.