A spectrum of human existence lay before me at Waverly Train Station. The diversity of human life in all its vivacity was presented and I, a mere spectator, observed it with the same acuteness as that of an art critic at the Metropolitan Museum. Each individual had a different form, was a different colour, followed a unique tempo and displayed a distinct mood. Waverly Train Station was a canvas and the pedestrians were brush strokes, each one similar yet wholly different.
The place was teeming with life and bustling with activity, periodic announcements and the blaring of approaching trains pierced the periods of intermittent silence. Some lugged their heavy baggage along the dotted floor of the station while others, like myself, waited for their train.
The man seated beside me glanced at his watch every ten seconds, as if ascertaining the time would make it go any faster for him. He had freckles on his face and looked not a day over twenty. His brown overcoat and sturdy, black boots looked old and ragged-affluence was quite evidently not his state of affairs. He clutched his ticket tightly, almost afraid to lose it and kept his luggage close. He perhaps belonged to the emerging Industrial Class. His finger did not bear a ring so I presumed he was unmarried and his unkempt hair signalled negligence towards his physical attributes.
A woman in a fur overcoat, with the air of a 40s Hollywood actress took the next seat beside me. She pretended not to notice me, and feigned indifference as if trying to emulate a member of the aristocracy. She carried a small, ornate pocket-mirror which she glanced at from time to time, adjusting certain parts of her countenance that to me seemed perfectly alright.
The man took out a book titled Ornithology — A Comprehensive Guide and began studying it intently. He produced a small pocket-book and took notes. He assiduously scanned the pages of this textbook and often seemed every-so-slightly fascinated by what he read. The pocket-book had gold engraving that read Property of Leonard Cohen.
In the meanwhile, the haughty woman took out the latest edition of Vogue. She perused its glossy pages and occasionally paused to read a piece of celebrity gossip that fascinated her, her face contorting into a peculiar expression every time something pleased her or astonished her. She quite obviously belonged to one of the highest echelons of society - the large diamond ring on her finger indicated the same. Perhaps the wife of a rich banker I construed.
Observing strangers at public places was not an infrequent exercise for me. I enjoyed studying them, discerning their peculiarities and idiosyncrasies and deducing who they were and what their life must be like. It is an intellectual, yet oddly satisfying exercise. I rarely ever speak to my ‘objects of study’, but the sense of detachment only piques my curiosity and makes the exercise all the more enjoyable. I have never been able to corroborate the accuracy of my conclusions, with the exception of one occasion, but like to believe in their precision.
The train arrived and I left the two strangers. I doubt I shall ever meet them again. There would be new days, new stations and new people for me to conduct this absurd exercise on, all the while deriving an unusual satisfaction from this bizarrely Sherlockian experience.
The writer is Grade XII student of Indian School Ghubra