The Humble Subway {Short Story} | The Indian Sage

Everyday, I have to walk through the same path. It is a long walk, and I have no option but to take it everyday. As I walk down the footpath, I see the modern cubular facade with red-stone marbles and walls higher than the number of stories, on the left, the old straight and rectangular architecture shaping the irregular gray concrete, on the same left, and the two story facade on a strong and wide base covered in green shades on the right.

Everyday, my friends walk together into a subway, to leave me behind, alone, for my long journey that I have to walk everyday. I see them going through the steep, glossy, and slippery, 3-sided downstairs converging at one place to lead into the subway. I look at them as they say goodbye to me, and move around to continue the ongoing conversations among themselves, to laugh together forgetting the goodbye they just said to me. Everyday, I want to go with them into the subway, but I do not. I walk straight ahead to take my everyday journey.

I see a board sign asking me to stop walking on the foot path because of the apparent fear of the sudden collapse of a decrepit, dilapidated building, its balcony hanging out right above the footpath. Everyday, I look at the old building, the foldable outward wooden shutters on the two windows at the height of first floor, the iron wires coming out of balcony, the many shallows created in shedding concrete of the structure, the balcony without any balustrade or supporting pillars, the semicircular void created at the center of the long balcony, making the two sides of the balcony out of reach to each other. As I look upwards to see a fraction of the floor of balcony, I see grass growing in between concrete. I see all the pedestrians ignoring the sign board, and I see everyone still walking on the same footpath under the dilapidated balcony of the sick building. I follow everyone on the same path.

I walk more, and I see numerous roadside vendors, a chat wala, a bread pakoda wala, a chote bhature wala, a cigarette joint. I listen to the occasional chirping sound when pieces of potatoes are poured in the hot vegetable oil filed at the center of broad convex steel griddles. I see boiled potatoes being mashed. I see potatoes being fried. I see a guy serving fried slices of potatoes poured with chat masala in a disposable semi-plate. I see a security guard, and a rich lady who doesn’t even come out her car, eating the same crispy fried potatoes. I see the chole bhature wala asking people to come and eat tasty chole bhature from his small eatery. I smell the smoke of burning tobacco. I listen to the never ending horns honked by fast moving cars on the road. I listen to the noise made by the engines of hundreds of cars and busses passing by. I look at people talking to their friends. I see people getting out of their offices, vexed and ready to take their anger on the accelerator of their car. I see friends enjoying aloo chat. I see smoking buddies. I see rich people who like to call themselves civilized, shooing away the poor beggar asking for a day’s food. I see the hard working security guard, who works in night shift after his daily job to earn the extra money for his family. I look at the book vendor who has spread his books tidily over a wide space, one over another. I also look at the other clothing vendor, who has strewn t-shirts all over the sheet, for his customers to choose the best on their own.

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One day, when clouds blustered, gusty winds swished past, green leaves, red leaves, purple leaves conspired together, I was to follow my friends to the subway, I had never visited before. Destiny wanted me to change my direction, and I did. I got the first opportunity to walk through the subway.

Throughout the day, I gave it no space in my thoughts, just a mundane change in my way back. But the instant I saw the subway from 50 meters away, I couldn’t hold my thoughts. I thought how it would be from inside. I wondered if it would be clean unlike most of the subways in the city. I wondered if it is strong enough to hold the heavy vehicles passing over the road under which it is built. I wondered if there are more vendors in the subway. I smiled at the prospect of purchasing more t-shirts from inside the subway. I wondered if the subway takes me to the opposite side of the road, or it would take me directly to the underground metro station.

I put my first steps on the same steep, glossy, and slippery, 3-sided downstairs, that my friends used to take, converging into an alley under the bustling traffic on the asphalt roads. I saw a gray aisle, taking me into luxuriant brightness. I saw two vendors collecting their salable items, packing them in giant cartons. My eyes caught still unpacked umbrellas standing out in flamboyant colors. I saw the same slippery up-stairs on the other side behind the expandable and folding iron fence. But I ignored the way out. I looked at the two mysterious 3-dimensional art forms on the two opposite walls of the subway facing each other. There was a sun on both art forms, emanating rays from one of its sides in red and yellow colors respectively. There were either many yellow or red birds, or stars; I couldn’t decide on what could be obvious for others. Quite a few vendors had already left the subway and rest of them were moving out. I asked one of them about the time they start selling their items in the morning. He told me that he comes everyday at 9 in the morning, and the subway enthralls with much foot fall by 10.

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At that moment, I heard a loud thwacking noise. I ran outside the subway in the fear that subway might be falling on me. But when I looked out, I couldn’t locate the balcony of the dilapidated structure, I used to see everyday. It had fallen over the many pedestrians, with whom I used to walk across the foot path everyday.

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