Curiosity stares through tinted glasses
at railway tracks that glint darker in the sun;
the house crow that pecks on the ties in between
looks only slightly greyer than its shadow.
The diesel smoke and incense mist
lie faintly over red painted benches
that infrequently decorate the station platform.
Glass doored cabinets in miniature stalls
hold jars of hard candy, myriad pan filling
and sugared tamarind sweets to charm the mouth,
brightly coloured foil packets of biscuits and sweetened milk cake
lie sulking on the icebox, liberally filled
with ice cream and badam milk, mishti doi and lassi,
chilled soda in orange, brown, and green,
sealed bottles of water for people to please.
People and more people with stranger clothes and faces
scurry and stumble, then scramble and hurry
up the overbridge and down to platform number four
with sari and suitcase, toddler with a missing shoe.
Cartons of fresh iced fish to be sold a thousand miles away
settle comfortably on the floor of the parcel compartment,
painted blue, like all the thirty and one passenger coaches
tailing the rusty red engine that punctuates the chaos
with sleepy sighs and anxious whistles.
Footsteps and wheels run briskly here,
yet time runs ever slowly still
in rhythm with the ceaseless chant –
“cha~i coffee! co~ffee chai! cha~i coffee!…”
T. E. Pyrus