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The Railway Station at Ranipura,

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A red-eyed porter in a uniform of startling crimson sat sleepily on the grey stone floor. A couple of equally drowsy flied buzzed around his turban-clad head. Somewhere, a clock struck twelve. The green seats wedged between the pillars on the platform were vacant. Nothing moved, not even the leaves on the trees. It was said that the railway station at Ranipuram was a quiet place.
A small unassuming white gate led into the parking area, which could accommodate eight cars with difficulty. A stone wall with the ticket counter set into it separated it from the equally tine platform, where the porter mentioned earlier, was now sleeping peacefully. Grey stone covered the platform, which had pillars at intervals. If you cared to look along the tracks from the end of the minute platform, you would see a line of oak trees starting from where the pillars left off. If you were lucky, you may even have been able to spot a few rabbits or a deer in the thick undergrowth. It was all that was visible till the broad trunks of the trees merged with the far-away fog, forming a seemingly impenetrable wall.
Twice everyday, the lone porter would pick up an ancient hand-held loudspeaker from its dusty shelf and make an announcement. Once at 12:25 to alert the usually meager crowd of the imminent arrival of the 12:30 train, the second time tat 12:25 to alert the just as paltry crowd of the imminent departure of the same train at 1:00. More often than not, the platform would be emptier than a candy box in the hands of little kids, but the porter would make his announcements all the same.
A dog came onto the platform, probably to escape from the furnace-like conditions outside, caused by the relentless beating down of the sun’s rays. It crawled under one of the vacant green seats and proceeded to doze off. The attentions of the flies were promptly transferred from the porter to the dog. It banged its tail on the ground in protest a few times. The flies returned with vigor. Giving up, it started snoring softly.
Unknown to the porter, the flies, or the dog, a famous politician was to arrive in the Ranipuram railway station by the 12:30 train to take part in an election campaign in the village. So, fifteen minutes before the train was to arrive, when they suddenly heard the sound of a procession of people clambering onto the platform from the ticket counter, all of them were naturally surprised. The indignant flies buzzed over to inspect the new arrivals. The dog, used to the cruel ways of men, decided to make himself scarce by leaping over the tracks and bounding towards the trees. The poor porter was bewildered to say the least. He could see around twelve or thirteen men in suits and sunglasses. Never before, in all twenty-three years of his service at that station, had he seen so many people on the platform at the same time.
The men were from the government and it was their duty to welcome the politician with honor and respect. One of them called the porter and rudely ordered him to fetch a red carpet. The old porter scratched his head in utter confusion and said that there weren’t any in the station. With a look that clearly questioned the porter’s sanity, the man barked out, “No red carpet?” Before the porter could even stop shaking his head, two of the men in suits and sunglasses made a few phone call. In less than sixty seconds, a red carpet had been brought and placed on the grey stone platform. Suddenly, a cacophony of sounds erupted from the parking lot and the men in suits and sunglasses called out to the people who were evidently creating the ruckus. On cue, a colorful band of performers and instrumentalists walked jauntily onto the platform. They were gaudily dressed in the most vibrant shades of green, red and purple and carried instruments made of the porter thought was real gold.
Then came the supporters. It seemed like a dam had broken as a sea of people descended from the ticket counter. Their clothes were all adorned with the same symbol- an orange lily. There were so many of them that, apart from the red carpet (which nobody dared to step on), not even a square inch of the ground was visible to the naked eye. Using a microscope, of, course, a few microns of the platform just may be seen. The band was playing a popular song and the people were all talking at the same time. Everyone was bustling around and the decibel rate rose to rare heights. If the sight of twelve men on the platform had bewildered the poor porter, he must have been shell-shocked by this commotion.
Right on time, the train pulled into the station. Ruefully, the porter realized that he hadn’t been bale to announce its arrival. Barely had the train come to a stop, when half a dozen more men in suits and sunglasses jumped out of it and pushed back the surging crowd. All talk stopped and the audience waited with bated breath. The porter himself holding his breath too. A portly man descended from the train. He was dressed in pure white and raised his ring-adorned hands to the assembled gathering. They all started cheering and chanting what the porter thought must have been his name. He stopped in the middle of the red carpet and one of the man handed him the hand-held loudspeaker used by the porter. He accepted it with the ease of a man who is used to being given things. He then addressed the crowd, who pathetically hung onto every syllable that flowed from his betel leaf stained mouth. Every now and then, the crowd raised their fists and shouted loudly. The politician’s naturally thunderous voice was magnified even more and when the band and the audience accompanied it, the ensuing uproar prevented anyone from hearing they speak. The politician went on incessantly, till the porter thought he wasn’t ever going to stop.
Finally, he did stop and strode the length of the carpet. He exited through the ticket counter and the crowd and band followed suit. The men in suits and sunglasses rolled our the sacred carpet and disappeared too. The platform was deserted once more.
Heaving a sigh of relief, the porter settled down on the stone grey platform. In a matter of a few minutes, his breathing became even and his eyes closed. The flies, too, had gotten over their initial excitement and resumed their beat around his head. From somewhere in the trees, a dog jumped onto the platform, probably seeking respite from the heat. It wriggled under one of the vacant green seats and took a snooze. The porter was asleep. The flies were asleep. The dog was asleep. It was said that the railway station at Ranipuram was a quiet place.





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