Strange Strangers

Music of frustration, if there was one, would be the bustling sound of Dadar station in the evening. Working class people, who’ve spent almost 10 hours at work are going back home. Not to rest but to energize themselves for another day of struggle. Pushing each other to board a train, so that you don’t have to wait another 20 minutes to breathe through your mouth. I don’t have to explain the giddiness inside the train much, as it has been romanticized by a lot of other writers. The most thrilling experience at a train station therefore is finding a place to sit. It’s ironic how this place, where I see less of hope and more of fatigue is called the city of dreams.

It was around 4 and I was boarding the train to-go home. Now I am a very privileged person so I chose to travel by First Class and I can’t be grateful enough. These little things people miss out to thank for is why the world seems sad (also other reasons). What I have noticed in my limited observation, the ladies compartment falls more on the aggressive side than the general compartment, correct me if I am wrong. So normally I prefer to travel in the general dabba. Another girl, probably older than me, was waiting for the same train wearing the uniform of an awkward young adult. I’m talking about earphones. It’s crazy how our generation considers talking to someone who has earphones on disrespectful.

We boarded the train together and surprisingly there were empty seats. We sat side by side and continued to be strangers. On the next station a lot of men boarded the train. I’ve lived my entire life being very comfortable in my skin and that is because my mother brought me up to be very confident and face adversity head on. Not everyone is as fortunate as me.

As soon as the men entered the train I felt the girl beside me go stiff. The earphones came off and eyes became aware. Suddenly her body from relax and normal went into F3 mode (Fight, flight, freeze). I was sitting near the window, so I asked her if she wanted to exchange seat with. The elation on her face couldn’t go unnoticed. We exchanged seats and I said to her that she can continue listening to music, I’ll look out for her. She laughed and we fell in a conversation. She was new to the city and it was her first day of job and how moving to a new place is very similar to being lost in a maze as a child. You eventually find your way but it’s still terrifying.

Her stop was at Andheri. I waved at her when she got down. A faint realization that sometimes just being nice is helpful enough hit me. Recognizing that someone is uncomfortable, helping them out is an empathetic giving which we need to do more often. Research says without good emotional help, growth of brain stunts. Just like without food, the body deteriorates. So with helping people by providing essential needs also provides comfort, support and empathy. Every day the world gets a little more stranger than it was yesterday. Strangers being generous and considerate adds to it but in a good way.

-Nishka Kumar
Mumbai, India

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