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The First Platform

By Sankalp Singayapally

The little boy waited for the train to pass before he decided to jump onto the tracks and cross to the neighboring platform. As he watched the boy’s shape clamber up, he realized that there was no word in the English language to accurately describe the lad’s appearance. The trousers were torn in several places along the thigh and were unequal in length. In fact, it looked like they were worn the other way around. As the boy got onto the platform, he realized that the left leg had a long scar, from the knee to the ankle and this was why the trousers were worn the way they were; the right side covered until the heel.
Before he could complete surveying the boy, something else in the station caught his attention. For a fleeting moment his eyes were drawn to the sway of a woman’s hand holding her daughter’s. They seemed rather happy, he thought and with a view from behind, he judged the woman to be rather attractive and the girl to be around ten years old. Her hair was bouncing like it had a mind of its own and seemed like it wanted to get away from the child. He couldn’t understand why anything or anyone would want to get away from the girl. Her carefree aura seemed to be calling him and he almost moved before a random blend of thoughts filled his mind and he realized he needed to focus. He gave the mother-daughter pair one last furtive glance and looked around for the little boy.
He wasn’t hard to find as the station was rather empty. It was rather unusual for this time of the day but the realization that it was the New Year dawned on him. He was among the few in the city who didn’t believe in the Gregorian calendar and the day was just like any other. The boy seemed to be looking around the platform for his daily rations. Food stuck to the wrappers or the leftover pieces of chips in a packet, though little, after scavenging from an eclectic variety of bins, should make for a substantial meal. He looked at his watch and saw that there was more than an hour for his train to reach the station. The boy was frantically looking through a dustbin and it was understandable; there was hardly anyone on the station to eat, waste food and throw it away. As he started walking up the staircase to cross over to the platform, he watched the boy sit down, unsurprisingly on the ground and eat. There was no reason for him not to use the bench as it was empty. Had there already been someone else on the bench, established social conventions would urge street urchins such as him to steer clear of the apparent higher breed of humans who saw fit to use the bench but there was no reason now, apart from the inherent acceptance of his place in the social order as a fundamental truth of nature.
A ramshackle of a plan formed in his head as he descended the stairwell onto the platform where he would board the train that would take him to safety. The city, with the police and the child protection groups and other self-righteous groups of people, wasn’t safe for him. He just didn’t know why people couldn’t accept his alternate approach to acquiring a state of inexplicable bliss. The world had to be divided into right and wrong and for some unknown reason he had to be placed in the wrong category. He had to get away, if not for his safety, at least to get the clutter out of his head.
There was no reason to suspect that the girl would tell. She seemed to understand his problems and everything that he had experienced. He too had sympathized with her problems and her pitiful state at school and home. She was constantly bickering that he was taking her for granted and was never really empathizing with her. Perhaps, it was a hint he had thought, at something deeper and grander. When he decided to show her, in his rather unique way, he was reprimanded. He felt there was something wrong with the simple premise on which the world was built and functioned. Nothing in him felt there was a reason to run and hide.
Then again, the hiding was a small price to pay. If he decided to stay back and fight it, the repercussions would be severe. On the other hand, if he ran away for a while, something else would take his place in the muddled minds of the world and he would be safe. But it was the interim that worried him. He wasn’t sure if he could live with the trauma. Logical he might be, but a calm mind wasn’t something he always had but the sight of the boy made something click into place.
He fished out a wad of notes from his pocket and offered them to the boy as he walked towards him. He liked dealing in silence. The boy accepted the money and didn’t have the faintest idea what to do with the money. For an hour he just sat on the bench with the boy sitting on the floor looking up at him once in a while and counting the money. An announcement regarding the arrival of his train was made and he stood up. He took hold of the boy’s wrist and walked with him into the train. There was no reason to worry about a ticket; a couple of notes would work fine, just like they did with the boy. As he took his seat, he looked at the boy and thought he should reconsider the joy of the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar; there was going to be a new beginning in his life.  


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