The platforms of Bangalore Cantonment Railway Station had never been kind to single women let alone transgenders like Lacho. Although the vendors and porters there had seen her ever since she was a little girl of 8 yrs old, they still treated her with the usual disdain that the rest of the world did. Hardly anyone spoke to her with any amount of respect and to expect approval from them for her presence there was asking for too much.
Only Ramanna, the old vendor at the bookstall would even talk to her. Given the fact that he was better read than most of the people at the station, including some of the Asst. Station Masters and the Railway Police, courtesy his post graduate degree in English, and well read, courtesy his 25 yr tenure with the bookstall where he got to read a variety of books and magazines of all genres, he behaved more than kindly towards Lacho. From time to time, he bought her food and coffee from the Rail Aahar food-stall, and once in a while also purchased some fresh flowers for her as well. Lacho reminded him of his own daughter Kamakshi who was studying Engineering in faraway Belgaum and rarely found any time to come down to Bangalore and spend some time with her father. In Lacho, Ramanna found all the love and affection that his own daughter could not provide due to the distance between them, both physically and mentally.
The only other person who treated Lacho with some respect was Gowda Sir, the person in charge of the signaling systems of the Cantonment Railway Station. Given that he had lost both his wife and daughter in a tragic road accident around 20 yrs ago and had no other family to speak of, Ramesh Gowda has been a lonely man for almost 1/3 of his life now, and he therefore found the company of Lacho reassuring. Her banter about her daily life, her dreams and aspirations, her anecdotes about fellow transgender friends, these brightened up his day, especially during the couple of tea breaks that he took daily. The three of them, Ramanna, Gowda Sir and Lacho were quite the regular tea-adda gang at the Rail Aahar food-stall on Platform No 2 at Cantonment.
July 13, 2012 was a day like any other at the railway station. The trains kept arriving and departing at their regular frequencies and the passengers got into and out of trains just like any other day, but this was a special day for Ramanna. This was the day that he would get to meet Kamakshi, his daughter after a long gap of more than two and a half years. Ramanna understandably was extremely happy, anxious and nervous, all at the same time. For years now he had felt a rift growing between him and his daughter, and he was more than sure that it was nothing serious but just a result of the different generations they belonged to. This was further exacerbated by the fact that although Ramanna was educated and well read, he still believed in quite a few old fashioned things which his daughter didn’t necessarily subscribe to, especially in terms of being unnecessarily friendly with guys, dating, and informal interactions with the opposite sex in general. Given that his daughter had not replied to any of his handwritten letters during the last two years, and all the phone conversations they had during this period also were also very curt and business-like meant that some part of Ramanna was quite nervous at the prospect of seeing Kamakshi after all these days.
While Gowda Sir and Lacho had soothed Ramanna’s nerves by telling him that the generation gap was something that all children and parents had overcome since times immemorial and that his daughter would love and respect him the way she did when she was younger, Ramanna still remained a nervous bundle of energy that morning.
Gowda Sir was having an especially busy day considering that a few trains had been thrown off their schedules due to a massive train derailment near the Bangarpet Junction railway station. All the trains which were coming to Bangalore via Bangarpet were getting delayed as they had to be re-routed through the rarely used maintenance track which was not maintained well enough to have back to back trains running on it. This meant that quite a few trains were getting delayed and the resultant domino effect meant that Gowda Sir was having quite a hectic crazy day as well.
All the delayed trains meant that the people who came to receive their friends, family and loved ones at the Cantonment Station had to linger around the station longer than they normally did. And bigger crowds meant better business for people like Lacho. She plied her trade weaving in and out of the crowded platforms today and the fact that most of the so called cosmopolitan crowd of Bangalore didn’t quite like being touched by Lacho meant that she made quite a killing on crowded days like these. However given that she wanted to see Kamakshi when she got off the train meant that Lacho restricted her operations to Platform 1 only where all the incoming trains would arrive at. Despite that she made more than her normal share of collection today given the number of trains that were delayed.
This story was originally published in the Femina Fast Fiction page.