The Utne Reader and Passionfruit
A woman, dangling her daughter by a skinny arm, emerges barefoot from the bathroom. Her filthy feet and wet, soiled sari brush against me as she stumbles over huddled bodies and sacks, expressionless, seeking her space. My own space is here on the muddy floor of the train, which is lurching and grinding its way through the Indian night from Agra to Tundla. All other space is filled. There are people everywhere. They are sitting, standing, sweating, stuffed ten to a four-person seat, aunties and children sleeping peacefully with contorted limbs. Tin pails hang from lepers’ knobby stubs, which poke dejectedly outward to beg for rupees. Passengers dangle fearlessly out open doorways, hanging on with one hand, feeling the rush of the warm, dizzying breeze. I’m sitting on my backpack against the wall at the end of the compartment between the bathrooms, my body packed between men who stare at me curiously and do not turn away. A cockroach scurries across my sandaled foot, toward the men in military uniform across from me who laugh as I flinch and draw my feet closer. They fight to capture it in their palms and then hold it before me like a prize.
‘You are liking cockroach?’ one asks with a mischievous smile.
‘I eat cockroach for my dinner,’ I say, motioning toward my mouth…