The compartments are dustier than ever, at this hour.
Greasy sandal prints, tail ends of
twisty rice chips, and a plum hairclip
lie exhausted across the seats.
The rosary-and-sukha-bhehl lady turns her face
away from the window, and for a small second
I see the bright, (perhaps) Goan
face that must have cracked it's share of hearts
a dozen years ago.
A bucket of suburban night tumbles in
through the windows,
wrapping the air in a scent of onions, green chillies, aamchur,
tossed carelessly together. As if on cue, the bald baby
in the black-veil-woman's lap
sneezes. Someone laughs at his snotty nose,
and a wave of girlish chatter
breaks out. "Baby idhaar dekh, kaunsa jyaada suit kar raha hain?".
I look at aunty, dangling two fake silver pendants
from each hand, and start to tell her
how local train silver probably washes off under the tap,
but rosary lady (who's finished her sukha bhehl by now),
black veil woman, and ring-pendant-waali declare together
"wo wala best hain!", pointing at
Pudhil station, Santacruz -
our laughter drowns out what must be the final call to
slip out of the nightly
Ladies’ first Class.