Its dead they say. The good old Samaritan has long been dead. An incident which took place recently made me come to terms with this fact. It was a small unimportant station. The train never stopped there for more than 5 minutes. I had been unable to get a reservation. The journey wasnt too long and I thought I could manage a few hours in the unreserved compartment. After all how crowded could it be. I have always been used to the luxuries of travelling in reserved class. At times I think people like us have been brought up in a bubble. I wasn’t used to getting out of this safety bubble, of reserved tickets and their security.
So there I was trying to get onto a train in general compartment. I was prepared for this encounter. I had reached the platform an hour early .I also had a coolie waiting with me. He had the responsibility to get me in. I was just like a luggage, to be carried in like my two other bags. The crowd began thickening as the time for the arrival of the train drew closer. The atmosphere around me was light. People stood there cracking jokes. Beggars passed by. I could hear a kid wailing somewhere. The train finally arrived nearly an hour later blowing its horn and the transformation which took place on the platform was dramatic! Suddenly everything and everyone was tense! The train hadn’t even halted when several of my neighbours including a fat man whom I thought incapable of movement dashed towards it. He seemed to be putting any Olympic athlete to shame with his agility .He hung himself to the open train door. But he wasn’t alone, several others followed suit and then began the scramble to get in. My coolie too was amongst the people hanging. He was screaming out a hurl of abuses and pushing his way in. The train finally come to a halt. After the first challengers had finished securing their places, others began getting in. These people did not hope to be even seated .They were happy to get a place to stand.
While the people were still trying to get in, the first lot had already spread newspapers and towels around them to mark their territory. I was still watching them when my coolie passed me a wide grin. He had managed get a window seat for me. As I shifted back my gaze to the door and standers, I noticed that there were several women too. They too fought and pushed. Suddenly one of them who was a little old fell off. But no one cared. I watched in astonishment as some people literally walked over her. She was screaming for them to stop but no one did .Boarding the train was more important. Not her helpless pleas .Finally when almost everyone had boarded, the train was packed she picked herself up and climbed the train. I could hear the horn blow again. My coolie called for me to hurry up. It was time. But somehow I couldn’t. I waited there unable to move. The coolie gave up and carried my luggage out giving up on the precious window seat that he had secured with such difficulty. I paid him and left the station .That day I couldn’t board the train. Later I got a reservation and this time climbed safely into the train. But what I saw never left me.
So what was it? Was it the helplessness of the lady, was it the insensitivity of the crowd or was it my own incompetence, my own inability to react, to do something, to help her out that bothered me so much. Maybe it was a mix of all those things. But it was the last thing which kept digging into my mind. Why didn’t I stand up for her and it still does……