It was 7:15 in the evening, and the first class ladies compartment was filling up. All seats were occupied, but enough place to stand. The lady closest to the gate on the left was laughing loudly at her cellphone. The girl to her left was munching on a bag of chips. Two women spoke animatedly, sharing recipes. Another yawned loudly every two minutes, another noisily popping gum, another laughing at another's joke, others just standing there.
The train reached Dadar, and it was time for a fresh load of women to enter the compartment. Many got in, some got out. There was still some time for the train to start moving, and everything seemed to be at a standstill, if only for a moment.
Suddenly, somebody different entered the compartment. The lady laughing at her cellphone raised an eyebrow, the girl munching on the bag of chips stopped for a minute, the women sharing the recipies stopped being animated, the yawning one stopped mid way, the chewing gum girl chewed slower, the laughing girls stopped laughing, and others just stood there, staring.
A boy, of about thirteen, slowly entered the compartment. He wore blue pants, and nothing above. Extremely thin, his ribs poked through his dark chocolately skin. His hair was long and unwashed, his fingers long and thin, his nails dirty. A long scar ran from his shoulder all the way to his arm.
But his most interesting features were his eyes.
Half closed and empty..just like the eyes of a stoner. His face had a weird sadness, his lips curving to a frown. He walked very slow and carried a dirty rag with him.
All eyes were on the boy. No one said anything. He walked to the middle of the compartment and squatted, ready to sweep the floor with the dirty rag.
"Ee! Utho! Kahan se aaye?" screamed one of the laughing women.
The boy didn't say a word. He looked at the woman, his arm outstretched, his eyes opening opened up a little.
"Abhi utho! Abhi utho!" she screamed again.
The boy lowered his head a little, but still didn't say a word. His arm was still outstretched.
The laughing woman was very angry. She looked at the women near the gate. "Why didn't you stop him when he was coming in?" she hollered on top of her voice. "Women in the second class would never have allowed him!" she glared at the women near the gate.
"Agle stop pe utarna!" she stared at him angrily, and went back to laughing with the other woman.
Everything went back to the way it was, and the boy looked around him. He stared at the girl with the bag of chips and wet his lips. He stared and stared and stared and stared. But the girl didn't look at him. Or maybe she was pretending. She popped the last chip in her mouth, crumpled the bag and threw it out of the running train. The boy stared at the dissapearing bag of chips.
The boy looked really tired. He rested against a seat, but the laughing woman didn't like him doing that.
"Ee chalo utho! Station aa raha hai! Niklo!" she said, crossing her arms. Her other laughing friend joined her, and then two others too. The boy got up very slowly, and trudged towards the gate. The woman that was laughing at her cell phone looked at him with disgust.
The train slowed a little and the boy stood at the gate. Everyone shuffled a away from him, their faces twisted in disgust. The station was approaching and the boy looked behind. His eyes were blinking slowly. He wiped his face with the dirty rag. The station came, but the train hadn't stopped yet. The boy looked back one last time, and he was gone.
And everything went back to the way it was.