Writings from the train to Amritsar
[Reproduced from my personal journal. Sleeper train to Amritsar: 1 November 2009]
They want me to turn the lights off. I don't mind. The darkness is better for these kinds of thoughts, anyway.
Try to picture it, I tell myself. Try to conceive--really conceive--where I am right now. The shadowy corner of a hinged metal bunk, worn smooth by the press of so many thousand strangers who have lain here before me. A darkened carriage with barred windows. The orange glow of night slipping across my face. The song of motion, bent straight ahead toward some unknown promise. An ocean of steel.
We ride as one through the crush of night. Strangers united by a vanishing point. Through the sway and tilt of gathering speed, sleep washes us from the dreamless world. My eyes sag, and close. And close...
Swift plunge into a pool if ink. Black waves lap over me, and I sink. The show begins: quiet trees and the sting of morning's mist; my father's footsteps behind me. Sunlight's play through red glass. A table set for eight; the dry silence of wooden walls and one summer afternoon, and peace. A class of children laughing; the proud sweat of a defiant blush. The majesty of jagged mountains, and one stone heart. A dog. A family. A river. The warmth of comfort and safety.
My eyes open.
I look past the windows, and notice the empty rush of the world begin to slow. And slow. And slow.
Suddenly, the trees and sky are gone, and the light of a crowded station blooms from the dark. I blink for the light. We stop, wait, for one minute, three minutes, five minutes. Not a sound breeches our cabin. Worn eyes set into worn faces file past--stream and tide of color, bursting, shifting, gone. I look to the stone platform muddied by so many transient steps, and make out two silent silhouettes. Black puppies, thin and alone, huddled together. Pairs of legs shuffle to pass them. They watch me, study my eyes as the train lurches into motion. Metal grinds against metal, and they tremble. We slide out of the station, and they disappear into the crowd. Night reclaims the windows. The train gathers speed. The memory is gone.
How often have I ignored the importance of the present, the adventure in my own life? Smells of acrid steam and the cool wind. Pinpricks of light streaming past. I never thought I'd live to see a moment like this one. And as I ride the crest of time's wave, carried by two rails away from the advancing brink of the past, I promise myself that I will never again forget: I am the hero of my own story.