Life on the other side


Life on the other side

A nice cozy winter morning, I off boarded my train at a nearby connecting station to catch another for forward journey. With four hours on hand and absolutely nothing to do I killed some time in boredom sitting on a bench observing what people around were doing,how the station master flagged every passing train and waved to the driver and the guard. He would then go just to come back again to wave for another. There were morning greetings, the attendant handing over their shifts, A tall lady dressed in a black saree with golden zari lining, filling up a huge railway register. Everything looked usual. The trains came they went off, people off boarded, people on boarded. A typical Indian Railway station scene.

I decided to take a walk around the station to relax my back which was all sore by this continuous sitting and moved towards the platform where I was suppose to catch my train. My attention was caught by a bunch of children and middle aged men and women on the other side of the track. There were 6 children scattered in two groups and from what appeared to be play on first sight, was actually work. A young girl aged around 10 was filling up a big metal water tub with a mug from a water source underneath the track. A young boy aged around 5 was playing with water she was filling which resulted in small quarrels as he spilled water on the ground. He would then sit on the track and make fun of her. This was a track which was not in regular use, I could tell that by the absence of human excreta on the ground. Their mother would yell at them occasionally from a distance to keep the fight at bay. A few steps apart was another group of two young girls and a boy, they appeared to be doing some serious business. The had a pile of disposable plates, the ones with silver foil on the use end. One girl would take some water from a half cut mineral water bottle and clean the plate with encircling motion and would then flatten it over a concrete girder to let it dry. The boy fetched water continuously to help the cleaning process and the third girl would arrange dried plates into a deck. A voice in my head played ” The next time you eat something on a plate like that, think where it came from”. I felt disgusted, but in another instance a thought came to my mind, What was the motive behind this rework ? The answer came almost in a flash “Money”. It is important to have money in life, but when you are poor, all your efforts are focused around it. I was no longer blaming these children as it was their misery which was compelling them to do so. Hunger makes you do a lot of unlikely things and these kids were being programmed right from their childhood to address it.Life is tough.

My eyes moved further to a group of three middle aged men who had a tightly packed sack. They were segregating plastic and other things they collected in it. They would occasionally have a talk and would laugh over a joke while continuing with their work. There were disposable plates, bottles, empty packets and a lot of other trash. Then this happened which left me baffled, one of them started eating from a plastic box filled with left over rice with absolutely no expression of disgust on his face. I think hunger supersedes every other feeling. He finished his “breakfast ” quickly and started working again. It seemed so usual to them, indeed it was. I was the one who was new to it. This was reality check. The oldest of them with a long hanging beard found a bottle of cola half way filled and gave it to the kids cleaning the plates. They took out plastic cups from the same sack, rinsed them with water and after a small quarrel on how to divide and who gets to drink how much they finished up the drink. All smiles. It was a party.

Out of everything sad which was happening right in front of my eyes there was one thing common, they all had smile on their faces. Despite all the adversity they were happy. I think that’s how life is. These were three different age groups and I could clearly see what these children would grow up to be.I looked at them for sometime and then moved as my train arrival was announced. I left the place but I carried a thought with me. Sir/Madam If you are reading this consider yourself lucky as life has bestowed you with luxury and other comforts in life. Be thankful for it.


Originally posted on on Saturday, February 06, 2016 at 08:25 am

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