But the main purpose of sharing this experience is somewhat deeper. This family allowed me to sit next to them on their cloth. They wouldn’t have said anything even if I had sat without asking for permission. When my train arrived, and I got up and said Shukria, the guy from the family said, “arrey bhai aapka bhi samay kat gaya, hamara bhi!”. I don’t think any of my friends from city circle (IIT, MNC’s, English educated etc etc) would have let a stranger sit next to their family. It’s tougher when that stranger is male-bachelor and dressed as a rustic. In many places in Delhi, such men are called chhada (often used to refer to labor migrated from Bihar).A couple of months back, I am sure I myself wouldn’t have allowed that. We become concerned about privacy and safety of the family. What is it with our education and modernization and our middle or upper class society that we tend to be drifted away from the concept of ‘vasudhev kutumbam’ (whole earth is a family) in practice as we ‘prosper’ and ‘progress’ and gain more status? We tend to keep ourselves and our dear ones more guarded from ‘others’ and more boundaries are created. In fact, a couple of months back, I am very sure, the first remark that would have echoed in my head after seeing that family would have been,“kahan se aa jaate hain, saara rasta bloc kar dete hain”, forget about sitting next to them. This family is one of the many families one can find every night on the platforms of Indian Railways. These are the people who travel in general compartment. Because of delays in trains, and because they have nowhere else to go and wait, they lay down on the platform and destroy the aesthetics of stations. At a time when railways do not have a decent waiting room even for people with sleeper class reservation, such families will have to wait a couple of decades for better conditions for themselves on stations.
I was waiting for my train to Haldwani. After standing for half an hour, my legs could not bear any more, after all I had been carrying that heavy , almost 10 Kg, back pack in and around the Old Delhi Railway station. Plus, I had just heard the announcement that train was 2 hours late and it was terribly cold that night. So, I looked around the place I was standing to find any seating arrangement. Just next to me was a group of people, apparently a family from Bihar. They had some cloth laid out on ground, and on that they were all lying covered with blankets. I requested one of them to let me sit on a small patch of cloth. The guy said, “arrey poochne ki kaa baat hai, baith jaaiye”. One of the women in group gave a tiny smile, as a sign of approval perhaps. Initially, only half of my ass was on cloth, slowly I made my way to gain little more of cloth under me, as not only my payjama was getting soiled, I was shivering from the cold from ground. I kept waiting for my train, and the announcer kept adding grace period to wait time. From 2 hours, it was now 3 hours and 45 minutes. The family continued to sleep. Sometime, one of them would accidentally hit me with his feet and then apologize. In every half an hour, a police man from Delhi police will come and hit them with his shoes and will not apologize. He would shout at them and probe them with feet like they are animals. That’s the value of human life. I was getting angry, but the recent incident from Delhi Govt Dispensary was still fresh in my memory. I was thinking how many things can I alone set right. There were many other ‘educated’, ‘high society’ people around who were watching this and did not bother to object.