Originally written on 7th March, 2015:
I’m at a small town railway station – waiting for the train that will take me home. It’s a sleepy railway station. It is quiet and not very well lit. I have always lived near the railway tracks. I’d been a regular commuter too. Trains have always evoked in me a sense of home and I was waiting for a train to take me just there. My destination was clear and my train would certainly come but my mind awakened to the presence of another, a lost and lonely looking soul.
Let me begin with his description. He was wearing a puffy grey sweater, for it was a cold night and a blue, Madras checked, crumpled, dirty lungi. He was wearing slippers that looked well worn. He had a face that looked like it had been cut from stone. Yet one could see that there was just bare bone underneath and no flesh. He was an old man, his hair was unblemished, completely silver with no trace of the jet black from his youth. The dichotomy between his clean shaven face, his freshly cropped hair and his tattered robes was stark. His skin was bronzed as though he’d been out in the sun all his life, which was quite fascinating given that it was winter time and the sun hardly ever gazed at his loyal subjects.
To you it may seem trivial and queer that a shabbily dressed, unclean and old man could evoke feelings other than contempt, disgust or insecurity. But it wasn’t how he looked, it was the aura around him and what he was doing. In an absolutely, eerily quite station, where the winter fog was adding to the spookiness, he was walking along the platform. Shattering the silence! He kept shouting, “Athisiyam!”. The Tamil word for miracle. But he wasn’t shouting it the way Archimedes would’ve shouted, “Eureka!”. He resembled a child lost in the bustling streets of a city. But he was in fact on a deserted rail station! He was clearly searching for someone – occasionally stopping to turn and look back.
Who was he searching for? His daughter? Wife perhaps? How had he lost them? Did he lose them like a child loses a pencil? Had he lost his miracle to a realm beyond ours? Was he even from our world?
As irrational ideas of the old man’s supernatural origins flashed in my mind, my rational mind took over. Then, I started asking the right questions. Who abandoned this man? It was shocking how someone could have it in their heart to abandon someone so fragile and helpless. Suddenly the old man became the personification of all the old people who had been abandoned. He was a ghost but not from the supernatural kind. He was a someone who everyone neglected, who everyone saw through, who everyone didn’t want! He might have been a good man or maybe not! But he couldn’t have committed any crime that warranted his punishment. He wasn’t cast in jail, he was set free. He wasn’t put to death, he was put to oblivion. He was dealt the cruelest punishment – death by oblivion.