DUST IN OUR EYES

Do you remember the fire that broke out in Bandra’s Garib Nagar slum a few weeks ago?

Waiting for a train at King’s Circle, my friends and I could see clouds of smoke billowing two stations away. The 9.07 to Borivali trundled in, late by twenty minutes. We climbed aboard, and it crawled all the way to Mahim.

And stopped.

The lights went off. Everyone stayed in their seats for a quarter of an hour until rumours began to circulate that all Harbour Line trains were cancelled. I got off, but since my friends and I were in different compartments, we missed each other in the crowd and I boarded a Western Line train to Borivali.

As we approached Bandra, I could see the flames, several feet high, bending across the tracks with the wind in their backs. Had the 9.07 not been terminated at Mahim, we would have been charred to death.

My train halted at Bandra for fifteen minutes. Here is what happened then :

I frantically kept calling my friends, repeatedly asking them not to take their chances with the 9.07, even though I knew that most, if not all of them had already gotten off that train. But I had seen the blaze and could imagine the destruction it was wreaking.

All I was concerned about is that my friends should be safe.

A group of youths jammed their faces against the window to admire the fire in its entirety. One of them was especially enthusiastic. He said it was his ‘first fire’.

Another man got off the train, saying he wanted to get a better view from the foot over bridge.

An old gentleman sitting opposite me shrugged off the whole event, opining that the slum dwellers were nothing but squatters on Railway land.

He went on maligning the residents of the burning slum, but I could barely hear him. The twenty-something girl sitting next to me was excitedly jabbering into her phone about what an ‘awesome’ fire it was.

The teenager on my other side seemed disinterested at first. Until he whipped out his Blackberry, took a (high definition) video of the inferno, and promptly uploaded it on his profile. Captioned, ‘wow’.

The middle-aged office-goer at the other window jerked awake with the noise, glanced outside and went back to sleep.

*

The next morning, we craned our necks to see the charred remains of so many homes. The wind blew the dust out of our eyes.

* * *

 

 

 

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