It was two at night and the Sitamarhi station was in a deep sleep...
|It was two at night and the Sitamarhi station was in a deep sleep. The platform looked a bleak place; only a few pilgrims and beggars snored on benches or on the floor. A night watchman kept a regular beat. In his uniform that was nearly two sized too large for him, he looked comically insufficient. He tapped his stick on random posts and blew his whistle even more randomly. “Dai baje!” he called out the hour with an effort that seemed to rack his entire being. A rickshaw-wallah, dozing sprawled on his cycle rickshaw nearby, raised his head briefly. Two o’clock.|
A few people had slowly begun to gather on the platform—groggy men and their sari-clad wives carrying bags two times their own weight. They glanced at their watches, feigning impatience. Hindi film music and an odd smell drifted from the station canteen, an impossibly large rat nibbled on a discarded apple core, a man paused to take a piss off the platform, and a boy went so far as to take a shit right on the tracks. There was no far away light of an incoming train. It was running behind schedule due to a water buffalo problem in Raxaul.
A man and a young child, standing hand-in-hand, were among the punctual waiting for an unpunctual train. The girl wore a mustard yellow dress decorated with beads and embroidery in the front. Her hair was in two plaits behind each ear, and in her nose, instead of a nose pin, there was only a small crude stick, meant to save the hole. The man she was with looked no more well brought up in appearance than the girl. He wore shabby pants, matched with an equally shabby shirt. He had wrapped his red scarf around his head, which ruffled his hair and gave him a wild appearance. It was true; he looked more wolf than man with his sharp piercing gaze and feral look. Yet still he held the girl’s hand and waited for the train that seemed like it would never come.
The girl was not smiling. She had a set expression of misery. Her eyes, clear and black, looked elsewhere from the tracks. She gazed for a moment at the rickshaw-wallah as he shifted and swatted half-heartedly at a mosquito.
Finally there was a light in the distance, and the man standing with her shifted his weight. She dragged her gaze back to the tracks.