The Jaffna train

The long-awaited jerk, and she’s off, we are moving

On time, the rail service has improved

I adjust myself, push my back into the seat as far as it will go

A fan blows directly on my face

The open window welcomes the dust and soot and grime

Bathing my face with the substance of my homeland

Dusty, searing heaven, I would not be anywhere else

Home rams into my soul, I belong here

Lips bare to return my smile, revealing betel-stained teeth

A forgotten memory of revulsion

Now a sweet endearment

We crawl through a slum

Dwellings almost verging onto the tracks

Naked children unashamedly gazing at the carriage cavalcade

A dog having second thoughts about giving chase

All familiar sights from my childhood

Grim reminders of those left behind

Ensnared by poverty as the world moves ahead

A sudden convulsive jerk, the train grinds to a halt

The occupants of my carriage rise as one

Rush to the windows, the doors, alight onto the track

Fearing the worst, I remain in my seat

They return animated, talking excitedly

I understand only snippets, someone was hit

The train resumes its journey

A mangled bicycle trackside tells a distressing tale

A lost life so inconsequential

It caused a delay of just half an hour

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