Just Chatting with Life

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Chinki

He had forgotten how to smile. Staying in a hellhole in Virar for the past 6 months had made him a wreck. Everyday he would wake up at 5 am and reach the station by 6:30 . He worked near Haji Ali and it took him nearly two hours to reach there from his room . He would leave the restaurent by 9 pm and then embark on the long ride back to the Chawl. He was treated like dirt by the owner and paid a pittance which just about covered his basic needs leaving almost nothing in savings. He had few friends . No one paid any attention to him and when they did, it was to laugh at him, to make a mockery of him. After all, he was a so-called "chinki" . In reality, he was from Meghalaya but then no one paid any attention to such minor details . He was desperate to go back home. Home where people were still human. where people still cared for another person. Where they did not discriminate on the basis of his features. Where they extended a helping hand.

Today he was running a fever and got up late. Not reporting to work would have resulted in him being fired. He dragged himself out of bed and somehow made it to the station. It was already 6:35 . The 6:36 train will pull into the station at any time. He was scrambling up the overbridge when he saw the train pull up onto the platform . It will stop for exactly 22 seconds. His body felt leaden. The fever was taking its toll. As the train began to move, he reached the platform. It quickly gathered speed and began to move out of his reach. He was running flat out now. The last car was just within his reach. But it was jampacked. Who will make space for a Chinki . He was on the verge of giving up when it happened . Like a magician's trick, A hand came out of the car . Then another . And another . And another . As if they were iron rods being pulled by a giant magnet. As if the petals of a flower were being unfurled. The hands were extended for help. Not for a slap as he was used to. They urged him to go faster . He used every ounce of his energy and ran. The train had picked up speed by now. With a mighty effort, he made contact with a hand. The hand did not care if he was a chinki, a hindu, a muslim, a lower caste. It just held him and pulled him into the car. As he got into the car, He saw smiles all around. They were not the smiles of contempt or mockery. They were genuine smiles of strangers who had helped him. Strangers who 10 seconds earlier had nothing in common with him. Strangers who were packed 400 a car when its official capacity was 100. Strangers who knew that missing the train will cause him to lose his job. Strangers who were now unnamed friends of him. Strangers , who for that one magical moment were not strangers. He smiled for the first time in 6 months . Bombay is not such a bad place after all !


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