Legitimately, we have slept next to strangers. We have woken up to unknown eyes watching us resettle back into the conscious world. They have seen you adjust your bra, cover bare parts of your body, wipe the drool around your mouth. You have sensed their gaze.
You cannot stop a voyer, an admirer, a pervert from staring at you for thirty six hours. He is on his seat. They know when you go to shit. None of us have bathed. A queer smell of our bodies ferment.
You know that you are being watched, but pretend that everyone is minding their own business. Toothpaste has fallen on an awkward part on your T-shirt. You have made it more obvious, because you try to wash it off.
You return. Everyone is looking at the wet part of your T-shirt. You coil in. But you’re still visible.
The fans aren’t working, wafts of smells sway in the wind.
Sweat. Gas. Urine. Spit.
Everyone can see you eat, how you chew, how you swallow, how you lick your lips. They can sense your hunger and greed. They have seen that you could be conscious of your burps. Some others see you responding to someone else burping out loud. They have seen your ways of sitting, your ways of unpacking, of disposing. They have seen how you throw or preserve the banana peel. What you cannot control is consuming in accelerated motion. An act of balance is required, without making it too obvious. By human error, one can easily drop chai or Tomato Soup, and the reaction that follows too will attract attention. So one tries to be as graceful as a Tai Chi dancer, and does things slowly.
Your transactions are suddenly transparent and public. Everyone knows where you keep your wallet. Everyone has a sense of how much money you’re carrying.
They know when your lover has called. They see your shy smiles or hidden suspicions. They gauge the status of your relationship broadly. They know, if you’re flirting or settled. They know, if you are still available. They might resist approaching you, because they know they are being watched too.
We are always privy to another’s world. Sometimes, you’re not reading, you are watching the rest, from behind your book. We have all eavesdropped. We have all been lurkers. An unknown curiosity, inside us takes over. Proactive in nature, it lasts the whole journey.
You’re morality has no place here, unless you confront someone. It is an odd negotiation of being in your private world in the most public way.
Yet suddenly, there will be moment, around dusk, when everyone becomes quiet and looks out of the window, in silence. At this moment, I believe we are collectively lost. Lost, metaphysically and metaphorically, where we are suspended from our individual realities, as if this experience was now ours.
Like a newborn creature, we merge in liquidity, and we become naked. We collide and wonder about this wide landscape, what are we chasing? The past is as blue as the twilight of now. In this moment of suspension, we learn that we are part of nature, and how much can we battle that? Contained in us, is beauty and horror. We smile, in resignation.
The chai seller is back. I have my tenth cup of tea for the day. And we disperse from this moment.
Your best bet after you go to sleep. You sleep amidst the blazing corridors of wind, stretches of colliding light, a surreal experience of time, where you feel time physically moving around you. The weathercock is in constant motion. You Voices of people, sounds of the engine, other engines, horns, distant horns. The silence of someone at a distance. The stillness of trees that look like ballet dancers caught in a photograph. Smell of passing flavours. Memory of taste. You sleep to this lullaby. Oscillating with the rhythm of an everlasting cradle.
Private joys in public spaces.
by Ekta Mittal
Cuckoo's call kissed
The engine's whistle
New platform, old peepul tree
summer loo gushes in
Caught in the act
Biryani on upper berth
I was trimming my beard
Lost it altogether
The train jerked to start
Have you seen yourself
From the outside
Inside the train?
I finally got the window seat.
"Could you pull the shutter down?
The train will start
its journey back tomorrow, tonight
it stands still filled with air and moonlight
by Prashant Parvatneni