Fear and loathing on the Vivek Express. Just google the word “stampede” and see which country tops that particular hit parade and while you are waiting for that to load I will tell you a little story…..
Something woke me in the night. I sat up abruptly, senses on high alert. I remember Sharell and her Rat Story. I think about the biscuits and nuts and remnants of our shared picnics beside me on the table. My ears search for any random rustling..NIL. Squeaks also NIL. The Priest has also woken and is sitting in the pose of a leapord about to strike. Something….
Gradually the sound of human voices such as the sound of the sea that becomes a tidal wave as we pull into a stat…ion. People swamp the train, they leak in through gaps. Shouting arguing kids screaming.
The priest leaps from his bunk to stem the flow. I think of Moses parting the red sea. Shouting he pushes the invaders back with his Pulpit Voice. Fire and brimstone. He holds the door to our compartment closed against the crush of people.
Because this is a democracy in action the invadering women begin to negotiate for their space in the area by the toilet. Some men from our carriage join the priest. Because this is also a caste system they slowly come to understand they have no entitlement to be here or to bar our passage to the toilet.
Gradually the crowd is pushed out and peace ensues. Until the train groans into the next station. Crowds of people bash on the locked doors and windows, baying for space. They gain entry from another part of the train and again a wave of humanity swamps our carriage. They shout and push and shove and within seconds there is possibly 150 people jammed into the space between carriages. Human sardines in techno colours. Humans acting like water, like a tsunami.
Incredibly the ring leading women are arguing with the priest about their right to ride ticketless with us who have paid a premium to NOT be jammed in with exactly them or people like them. People who leave food scattered all over the train attracting rats, people who do not know how to keep a toilet clean and people who MAKE A NOISE. Not bloody likely matey! Indian might be a democracy in action but she still has the caste system and cops, the middle class defence system against revolts and revolting behaviour.
The shrieking women are not so much afraid of the brimstone and fire of The Priest but quaver when he mentions The Police. The priest reigns supreme and the crowd is vanquished, sent to the carriage for the chattering classes.