I’ve definitely stayed in the city too long. It really wears on you. It’s unrelenting; the ugliness is sometimes too much. But I guess it is good to let yourself get accustomed to the worst possible situation because then you can deal with anything.
I just had the most amazing train ride. For two rupees you can take the train around town. I wish I had discovered this earlier. I got on the woman’s compartment of the train. All the other cars were jam packed with men. There were people hanging out the doors and sitting on the windows. But the woman’s car was calm and peaceful. It was quiet. Everyone was wearing flowers in their hair so the car smelled of a variety of flowers.
I have fallen in love with Indian women. They have a quiet reserved strength. They all looked at me when I go on the train; they sized me up. One woman signaled for me to sit down – I was accepted. They all continued to study me and I smiled at them. I couldn’t help myself. I was so happy. I had just discovered a well kept secret.
The train ride was so peaceful. The train itself is an old rusted World War II train with open windows and open doors. You can jump off at the station or if you are in the last car, and the women’s car is usually the last car; you can get off on the grass by the tracks. I felt like I had time travelled while I was waiting for the train.
The station in Madras is archaic. Everyone walked back and forth in Saris and Sarongs – clothes they have worn for thousands of years. I’m sure the station and the people looked exactly the same way in the 1920s, 1940s and 1960s – only different characters were in the roll of every day travellers.
The view outside the train was amazing – green and lush – up until now I had only seen cement, dirt and sewage. This was a welcome change. The smells, the auras and the people were all perfect. The beautiful and colourful Indian women have my respect and my admiration and I promise to only travel in the women’s car and on the train.
Here is what I wrote in my scrapbook:
I fell in love today with something amazingly beautiful. I fell in love with the women on the train. I fell in love with their beautiful saris. I fell in love with the flowers in their hair and the scents they produced. I fell in love with their quiet strength, their innocence and their knowing eyes; their ability to put their feet up on the seat and let their bellies hang over their Saris without caring. I fell in love with their ability to accept me, welcome me and have me sit next to them.
They guard their space. The woman’s train belongs to them. No men allowed! This is why they can relax and be calm. A man tried to get onto their train. They all yelled at him. He scampered away in a hurry – to the impossibly crowded men’s compartment. We smiled and stretched in our space like contented cats.
There were two women sitting cross-legged on the floor by one of the open doors. Wind rushed past them, rustling their saris. They argued loudly. The woman on the seat across from me looked at them. Then she looked at me and smiled. She was beautiful in her gold coloured Sari. Little wisps of curly hair escaped her oiled braid, curling about her face. An older woman wandered over and sat across from her. They started to talk. They arguing stopped from the floor.
The train slowly passed flowers, trees and lush grass. All the windows were open so there was a breeze. I felt at peace. Three school girls in pink and blue saris were whispering and looking at me from the end of the train. I winked at them and they started to giggle soft and beautiful.
My stop was next. I walked to the open door and allowed myself to indulge in a little recklessness. I hung out the door of the train, letting the wind rush past my face and hair. I felt alive and happy to be alive. I smiled a huge passionate smile. I was glad I was a woman. Glad I could fall in love with the woman’s train.