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Another ticket

He stares at the screen, mesmerised by the rhythm of the blinking line. The blank page stares back, challenging him to put down something... meaningful. He isn't one of those writers who sit down and pound a steady 1000 words a day. He is not much of a topical writer. Unless someone wants to know about endless local train journeys and the emotional vacuum of a single man's life in Bombay. On that subject, he's close to being an expert. But he's tired of writing about it and his waning audience is no longer interested. Apparently, there are only so many ways to skin a cat. 

So, what kind of writer is he? He doesn't know. At some level, he doesn't care. He only writes when he feels like it. In recent times, he has not wanted to. He catches the faint scent of the idea for a post every now and then, but it drifts away, leaving him with a peculiar hollowness. Like he had something to say, but forgot, and can no longer even remember whether it was important or trivial. For him, it is easier not to try. A friend of his is fulfilling a long cherished dream. He thinks about these ideas - dreams, cherishing something, having dreams to cherish... his train of thought goes around a circular track. Goes nowhere. 

He has been ill recently. He falls ill infrequently, but viciously. It happened to him last year. And the year before. Only, this time it is a little different. Something, perhaps the rope tethering his resolve, has snapped. He had borne the city before. Now he finds he cannot. Or does not want to. Most people in his shoes would choose to do something about it. Not him. There was a point where he would use the situation to write piece after piece, tinged with helpess humour. Now, it all drains away. 

He had gone for a week to his firm's head office in another city. It involved overnight train journeys. It meant the train would go through his home city, pass very close to his neighbourhood, and even halt at the station. He saw the road he had ridden his bike on countless times. He followed it as far as his eyes and the window would let him and imagined being home. He thought about how close he had come 8 months earlier to shifting back home permanently. He wondered...

On the journey, he saw things that left an impression. At Solapur - an old man, the colour of mahogany, in cream kurta and dhoti, with a yellow turban. His walking staff is the same colour as his skin. The old man stands, waiting. On the train, he watches; feels a powerful, unknown connection with the man. They are both waiting. For something. At Wadi - a young railway policeman, silhouetted against the sickly light struggling from an office. He is visibly struggling against the mosquitoes. On the train, he wonders what this young man dreams about. 

The visit is a blur. A week passes by and only two things remain with him. The tangible pleasure of being in a nice hotel, and wonderment at the poise and equanimity of a colleague who recently suffered bereavement and legal trouble at the same time. He wonders whether it is time to let go. To make peace. 
On the return journey, he is initially seated alone in a two-person compartment. He has stopped caring about travelling companions. His companion is a portly old man, a political bigwig who's valet comes to prepare the bed. The minister suffers from regular and very loud bouts of flatulence. The night is not peaceful. Fortunately, the retinue gets off at Gulbarga in the morning. He is left alone again. He reads and stares out of the window; sees things that he files away in his head. A lonely silver Indica incongrously appearing in the middle of a field. An ancient, stone tank, indicating the foresight of past rulers of the area. Houses with the barest excuse for roofs but with proudly burnished satellite television equipment. Sets of train tracks suddenly ending in mounds of green earth. 

The train pulls into his city of work. He is just another person getting out of the station and becoming lost in the teeming mass of people. He thinks he has something to write about, at last. A moment later, he can't remember what that is.

Song for the moment: Pretending - Eric Clapton


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