Sunday, 22 February 2015

Besieged on a Train

They came carrying the wind in the tails of their dresses. Claps of thunder announced their arrival and the threat of assault assuaged and permeated the beings of almost everyone but the strongest of will as the wheels of the train turned once more. We knew that we were helpless against them at least till the train came to a stop again and that wasn’t going to be anytime soon.


They moved from coach to coach, seat to seat, identifying their targets, sizing them up. Shifting uncomfortably under their gaze, travellers tried to hold their composure. Only a few succeeded. A few regulars along this route had faced this threat before; many hadn’t. They hardly knew how to react. They had only heard stories of them doing unimaginable “things” to those who didn’t acquiesce to their demands. To face this threat in reality was a completely different ball game. They were living the horror they had smirked at in the confines of their homes. They weren’t finding it so funny now.

As the dreaded ones came upon this shifty bunch of travellers, they saw just the back of some heads and the petrified faces of others through their kohl-smeared eyes that bored through everyone as if in disgust; or was it anger?

The travellers knew what they wanted and few who wished to avoid confrontation just paid them what they could. Others didn’t. Whatever reasons they might have had, they never revealed, instead just turning their faces to look out the window or at each other in supposedly knowing anticipation of what was to follow.

The invaders didn’t take rejection quite well.

Shouts and screams emanated from the coach, punctuated with sobs and claps and o someone eavesdropping, the clamour would have probably sounded like a massacre in progress.

They had taken what they had come for. They always did.

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This is what usually happens on almost all trains that pass through Maharashtra from Gujarat. People get terrorized by these violent groups of eunuchs who literally demand money from passengers as if it were their right to get paid – just for asking. And if they are not paid, they start screaming, hitting people and in worst case scenarios, even expose their genitals before those who don’t pay up.

They mostly harass men and especially behave very badly with labourers who hardly earn enough for their own bread, much less pay them. It is my personal experience where I’ve seen gangs of these thugs climb aboard and beat up innocent travellers who don’t wish to pay these ruffians.

There’s even more.

There are a number of groups of these thugs who climb aboard a rain at different stations and leave before the next gang climbs aboard. I’ve actually witnessed five gangs come through the train I was travelling in at one point of time. It was the most harrowing experience I’ve had in a train.

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Now I know that eunuchs are discriminated against and that they don’t get jobs and then this is what happens. But this does not mean that innocents have to suffer for the failure of the system and that the all of them should be blamed for the actions of a few rotten eggs. When asked to comment on this situation, the Public Relations Officer of the Western Railways said that this problem was bound to remain till the government doesn’t resolve whose jurisdiction it is to deal with these miscreants.

And so, even the Indian Railways believes that this problem is not going to be solved anytime soon.

Bon voyage!

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