Changing Trains in Dhaka

Commuters get off trains as these arrive at a station to attend the final prayer of Biswa Ijtema in Dhaka
Takes the worry out of hurriedly alighting, climbing stairs two-at-a-time, across the station overbridge and down another flight to catch your connecting train.


Train Spotting

Travelling by rail through the inner west is like walking through the bowels of an old building on the fringes of the city.

Cracked edifices, leaking pipes stained rusty, bifurcating canals and tunnelling.

Fences, wire and cable declare areas of complete emptiness as ‘no-go’ zones.

Old bricks. Red-brick. Damp and dust. Home to a microcosm of crawling insects; everything in symbiosis.

A feeling of desperate loneliness used to fill me once, with such sites. Now, I am not saddened so much as just lost in its randomness, and yet not — a purposeful randomness that reflects my own life and perhaps that too of others.

As sure as channels twist and turn and branch, darting here under mangroves and there aside tailings, the car bends suddenly and cranks boisterously to help settle me to sleep.

But travelling in any vehicle makes me sleepy – cars, trains and planes.

After all, only with motion can one completely rest.

Travel Time

Its a different world from a train ride. The world stops. Silent. You rush past in time-travel; with those in the front carriage just a few light-seconds ahead – in the future as it were.

The dynamics of your life are changed. Rather than rushing and fighting and fussing and cussing other road users, you sit back, relax, take it all in… someone else is at the wheel.

A different side of an area you thought you knew well appears. It’s a different world. Piles of metal, concrete and rubble. Road fill and rocks. Even the cement sits serenely blasted on banks as if with a can of spray paint. Your perspective and proportions are altered and falter.

Though more time to look at your disposal, you feel somewhat detached. Something catches your eye but you cannot simply stop to take a closer look. Will it look different tomorrow? Will it be there at all?

Streams of metal and concrete, PVC tubing and ropes of cable. The next day a barricade where once there was not. And the ingredients… well they are just gone.

Passengers are merely people who temporarily modify their behaviour and compromise their posture and comfort. Men who have never met sit closely hugged to each other. Where else would you see that! Train riders take on a collective purpose; with an undisclosed comraderie and covert respect for another – at least the pre-dawn travellers. You glance at the face. You could be looking in the mirror. For they all say the same thing: “You’re up early too”.

The carriage noticeably slows, yawning and straining under its own weight, in warning of an approaching station – the next stop.

And the two ladies across and two rows up suddenly focus into your vision. Their exchanging sweet nothings and their gossip becomes clearer and clearer. The closer to the station, the slower the train, the louder they get.

What of the tracks? Imagine the loads they carry. The repetitive imperative strain. They must take a well earned breather between trains; the tracks I mean.

I’m behind the wheel again…

I stop to look at a gum tree. I get out and shut the door behind me to approach this beast many years my senior. How many others’ has it seen. How many more still. I snap off one of it’s twigs. It’s thin but firm yet powdery on its surface; the leaves various shades of green. I tear the foliage just as the mid-afternoon Southerly gust forces the tree into anger, as if I hurt it. Your mind does funny things when you are alone. It plays tricks true? Even when there are lots of people around, we’re often alone. Breath in the eucalyptus – ahhhh. An oily resin reflects the light off my slippery thumb and finger. The breeze reminds me of both how it’s good to be alive but that I’m also late. You can’t do all that when you’re riding a train. I’m not in control.

I like it anyhow.