Train to Bombay
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Puffing out the stench of tobacco,
maladies and middle class sweat oiling
grey working class heads, the train
reluctantly shrugged off
tracks clothed in half grown grass
fed on human faeces,
shoving across slums
nailed to sprawling public lands
stacked like humid logs
in decaying concrete jungles
Sun scorched skins of
scarred shanties blurred past
while my dreams stuttered
into hazy nightmare ports
echoing shrill whistles and mock laments
of young men bred upon
regular exhibitions of pauper misery.
Khakied snack vendors drilled my ribs
with shrill cries, pressing me into
cramped corners like wada
sandwiched into pav,
to thread their way
past me in the crammed car.
I bargained peace with
ragged blind peddlers
selling balls flashing bright
lights of varied colours.
My imported accent
smelt of foreign currency,
yet I offered only a few stale
words of polite pity.
Would they slap betrayal if I confessed
my fair skin and brown hair were
painted by the icicles of Kashmir
rather than the European sun?
Alighting at the city, I stumbled
against paralyzed dreams crawling
with timeless urgency.
Culture, the old beggar said, is ordinary.
Photo by Moazam Rauf