Tram Service 43 B takes me home every day after office hours. I am a senior clerk with the swanky Bengal Spinners Group. Office always got over at 5 PM, and then Ramu, Robin and I had the usual tea outside the office and a dash of the days Gup-shup. This was the routine before the office bus left sharp at 5;30 pm, and with that my two friends would also be gone.
Today I was at the CTC tram stop exactly at 1732 by my new digital watch and now it was 1758 and so far no 43 B tram, empty or full had come this way. I could sense the small commuter crowds grow in size. I had been reflecting on the days happenings, carried forward from the tea with the two friends at Basu’s tea stall. My day had begun with the Boss yelling for my habit of late arrival for work. Then as the day grew on me I had sifted through several files from the in-tray and juggled with the files and the pending and out-trays. All along, I took care not to disturb the dust settled on them. Of course, being a woman I had a something special against the dust, but then, any activity on my part to “cleanse the files” would be a very disloyal thing against my fellow staff.
Around noon I noticed that my lunch box from Hotel “Swati” had arrived and was stacked neatly at the counter along with some other hot cases. I always liked this as it infused confidence of a meal on time. Later, I ate it hungrily. This was followed by an all ladies tete-tete as all men filed out for a usual whatever outside.
Now, I was aware of crowds milling past me in all directions. Horns, bells, calls, hooters, chatter and shrill natter was all around me. All this and the roars, screeches, rattle and groaning of the traffic put together was what we called the “peak traffic volume”. It did not disturb me; I only wished the tram was here. In the distance some busses slowed down with unhealthy squeaking of brakes. None of the sardine like passengers got off, only more would get in. I began to guess the numbers of sardines in each bus, 150, 170… Then, I had to quickly duck as a coolly with his “chabbaria” went howling past. I always managed to avoid these overloaded humans with my years of practice on the street-side of Calcutta.
In the distance I saw a tram at last. Its bell going Clang, Dang, Clang. But no one actually heeded to the danger it was announcing. In any case there was no space for any one to move out any way. The overhead roller collector rolled along blackened wires and produced blue sparks at every joint. But my mind was not electric right now. I was singularly revising the strategy and tactics that would help me board the metal giant. There would be some exploring hands, some helping hands and a lot of just hands all over. All I had to do was to get a foothold and every thing thereafter was the good work of a helpful masses. Once inside I would crane my neck and avail of sweat laden foul air. My body would join as one with everyone else and lurch forwards, rearwards or sideways as the tram negotiated its way forward.
Presently, the 43 B halted with some one shouting “Janana, Janana”.This is one time I thanked the creator for the female body and the respect it got. Where else does a girl get her dime, especially me who’s 30 days worth equalled by the company’s 4000 blue notes.
With practiced ease I put my best foot forward, on some body else’s toe. There was instant screaming and shuffling and I found my self upright on the floor-board. The tram was already accelerating to its incredible 30 mph top speed – I found the surge in my guts and realized I was not holding on to any thing at all. As the tram changed track, there was a strong sideways movement. I realized I was being violently thrown out and my hands tried to grasp at just any thing. But, nothing; and with it came the ignominy of lying about on the tarmac. The tram came to a halt some distance up as a crescendo of terrified voices rose alike from bystanders as well as my co-passengers.
I think my head hit some thing and I saw a blood puddle grow around my face. I was not thrashing about but lay there like a good road accident victim. I could almost appreciate the kindly nods of so many heads around me, now standing in a fast closing circle. The faces were falling over each other to have a good look at me. I stared to back at the faces and just kept staring for a long time.
A wail of siren announced some official activities to one of the best citizen of the Calcutta metropolis. The crowd began to melt away. In turn, I was now surrounded by people in uniforms – some in white doctor’s coats and others in Khaki police colours. I began to wonder if it was me who was seriously hurt or was there another more deserving soul. I wondered why I was still lying in the pool of blood and had not moved away. Then I heard a voice declaring that I was still breathing. That sounded grave enough. I could “see” now rather than feel people lifting me up on to a stretcher and on to the ambulance. I saw an attendant get into the ambulance a close the door. Then we were moving and there was no pain. As the attendant lit a cigarette and blew smoke towards me I wanted to protest, instead I asked. I asked him what was happening. He kept smoking and looking out of the window across me. I was astounded by his behaviour as I got up to go and sit in an empty seat next to him. I repeated my self, but he kept surveying what ever he was surveying as he blew smoke into the stale air. I joined him in his surveying.
This was now truly fascinating as I walked by the stretchers bearers. I could see my own body lying there. “What the heck!” I said to myself and got the answer when in the emergency room a doctor drew a white sheet over me- all over including my head. In confirmation I asked the doctor if I was dead, but then perhaps he did not hear me. I headed home.
At home I hit the sack. I slept really well.
In the morning I got up nice and fresh. The day was breaking in as usual. I yawned, stretched and swung off the bed and headed for the loo. I tried to squeeze some paste on to the brush, but nothing happened. “Oh! Yes!” I said to myself, “Suppose I am dead, now”
I went to office; it took me only fleeting seconds to get there. All the colleagues had gathered around my table and were actually discussing me in sad terms. That’s life ‘adieu” For the first time I realized I was form less and floating well above every one else.
I kept floating thus.
But now I get the feel that I am shrinking, yes, indeed shrinking to infantile size. Must be another hallucination, I said to myself. Then it began to happen, I could not recall any thing, the mind was getting cleared. No thoughts at all and all this while I was seeing so much happening all around. Now, nothing.
The familiar sight of the doctors and nurses and their white coats. I did remember this. But, what exactly is happening, I suddenly wanted to know. In the following confusion, I began to cry- rather loudly. Then from the crowd of the doctors I heard some saying, “It is a boy” They were all beaming as one bespectacled gentleman announced, that the baby will survive now