A Day in Local has been edited by Rushi Bhimani.
As Vinita touched the station on time an announcement was made “The local train 59047 Virar-Surat will be running late by 20 minutes.” Exhausted and frustrated, she settled herself on a platform bench, when she heard her name being called, “Vinu…Vinu “. Turning her head towards the voice, she finally managed to smile. It was Karyn, one of her commute-friends. Karyn, Shabana, Roshni and Vinita: this group was one of the many circles that had formed in the locals with their daily commute. These women weren’t the same age, didn’t work together, nor did they live near each other. Yet they connected well enough to understand each other’s lives, for they did come from similar circumstances.
It hadn’t been a smooth day for Vinita. Her principal had called a meeting for the school’s annual function dates, which meant extra hours of work and staying back late. It was never pleasant for her when it came to extra hours in school. The added work was not an issue, as she loved her job, but it was the matter of reaching home late. The excessive amount of work tired her out, and with a six year old daughter and a ten year old son, she had yet more work to look forward to. The children tried helping her with minor chores, but it only helped so much. Be it the financial matters or household tasks, most of it had to be done by her.
“Vinu, I don’t know why God’s against us, it’s been the third time this week that the local is late and on top of that the rains, last time I had to walk all the way home with all our transportation facilities at halt in village with my feet submerged half way,” Karyn muttered in a single breath. She was about to continue when she felt a soft pat on her back. Shabana and Roshni had arrived. Whiling the minutes away, they were engrossed in their chats, when the train arrived. Since the local was already late, passengers with later shifts had gathered too. The platform was hidden under the thousands of feet, stomping to inch closer to their ride home. There was pushing, pulling, shouting, cursing, no one spared anyone while hastily climbing in the coach.
The four of them spared no effort themselves, knowing it will be the last local. Roshni somehow settled herself on a corner of a seat with Karyn standing beside her as a support. Pulling out the pea pods from the bag Roshni started to pick out the peas explaining, “I have to do it now, or else tomorrow I won’t be able to prepare the tiffin in time, the morning will anyhow be hectic since my in-laws are visiting us and I will have to prepare lunch for them along with tiffin.” Vinita and Shabana who could not stand along with Karyn since the ladies stuffed in coach with no space spared to stand, they stood near the door holding on to the handle.
Shabana called her husband as to inform about the delay so he can come to pick her up accordingly. “Why are you worrying? He’s coming to pick you up…”, said Vinita, looking at Shabana’s anxious face. “It’s not a matter of him picking me up, Vinu, after reaching home I will have to prepare dinner with the taunting and tensed ambience of my mother-in-law and it depresses me more. I took up the job so as to let our economic conditions stabilise. My husband supports me but my mother-in-law thinks I work so as to spend it for myself, it’s frustrating when you are not being valued for what you do.”
The silence grew between both of them as they stared into the darkness, with nothing but the noise of gossip and chatter. They knew this situation was faced by most of the women surrounding them. They all knew they had no choice but to live with that. As each of their destination’s arrived, they bid each other goodbye.
Roshni’s house was within walking distance from the station. Karyn’s older son had come to pick her up. Shabana spotted her husband and went off. It was Vinita who had to find a bus to the outskirts of the city. She knew it was a risk to travel so late, but her children were home and waiting. Fortunately, it was a safe ride.
On reaching home, her heart skipped a beat. The windows were dark, the house silent. She ran up to the door and pounded. No one answered. After frantic grasping around in her purse for the keys, she managed to unlock the door. Her mind stepping into dark places, she was about to call out for Ravi and Riya when she heard something in their bedroom. Her heart hammering at her ribs. she softly stepped in and flicked the lights on.
And there she found her children merrily chanting, “Happy birthday amma!” With huge smiles showing missing teeth, they proudly presented her with a cupcake and 2 chocolates in the chaos of day she had forgotten it was her birthday. Unaware of tears streaming down her face she smiled through heart today after
Lost in the day’s chaos, she had completely forgotten that it was her birthday. Oblivious to the tears streaming down her face, she smiled in a way she hadn’t for a long time.
“Amma, Bhaiya got the cupcake and I prepared a card, look amma look” Riya excitedly said as she presented it. Vinita held it in her hands softly, the image hazy to her teary eyes. The card, adorned with stars in all sizes and colours, simply said, “WE LOVE YOU AMMA!!”. She embraced her children, feeling her tiredness slowly slip away. Wiping her tears off, she split the cupcake into three, splitting only a tiny morsel off for herself. Nibbling it with joy, Vinita found herself full, by the love and care of the children whom she thought hadn’t even aged for such understanding.
A sense of ease flushed down her face, and she felt calmness within her. Her children were the reason. They were the sole purpose of her preparing herself for each day’s struggle.
With the excitement of her birthday at rest, she went back to her routine. She prepared the dinner, helped the children with their homework, made preparations for the next day’s tiffins, and checked some of her students’ notebooks. By midnight she finally was free. This was the only time when she could give a few minutes to herself. Closing her eyes, she recalled the scarce joyous memories she had ever had, finding herself a now-rare laugh, and gathering her strength for the next day’s struggle – which was now a habit for her.
To read more by the author of Store Full of Stories: A Day in a Local, click here
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