Amruta Prabhu

Metro short 7 

She lunges at me, the tall black girl standing against the closed doors of the metro.

It’s that time of Saturday night when anything can happen. When the last few people going home after a couple of drinks have disappeared and been replaced by those who’ve had one too many. I have been sitting here looking at them in my own world-wearied inebriation for a while, actually. I don’t know why I drank as much as I did, and I’m feeling vaguely disappointed and tired. As I look down the train through the passage between the seats, most people look as blurred to me as I imagine I do to them. I try and combat the feeling by fixing my gaze on a man sitting right across from me. Instead of seeing his face though, my eye is drawn to a white earphone dangling down the right side of his neck. A few seats behind him, an obviously drunk man seems to be talking in what I infer to be a loud and obnoxious voice from the way his mouth is opening and closing wide. I can’t hear him, but that doesn’t make the vision any less grotesque: this outline of an earphone sharp against the backdrop of the opened mouth. I can’t seem to see anything else. My head hurts.

When the girl intrudes upon me, I naturally interpret it as an attack. Like everyone else, her eyes are bloodshot, and I brace myself for certain aggressiveness. Instead, she looks straight at me with her droopy eyes, her body swaying, and mutters “I try speak English, eh, where are you from?” I’m in no mood for a conversation, but she intrigues me, this girl with the courage to talk to a complete stranger in a second language. I tell her I’m from Bombay; she registers it fleetingly and then rolls on to say “I don’t speak English well, but I try and talk, you know, people don’t talk to each other nowadays.” She gesticulates widely, referring to all the people in the train that I’d been looking at so far. I know what she means, and smile. “You talk to me, you are good people” she says, as the brakes screech pushing her against the door. In that instant, I notice that she is dressed shabbily, in a dirty black and white sweater and a grey coat with a hood. She grabs onto the pole to steady herself. “You are good people, I see in your eyes. Me, I want to be a journalist, but they don’t want me. I have so many things to say, but, you know, the politics and…they send me away. They say you don’t do this.” I sympathize quickly with a nod of the head, wondering whether I am the only person she can tell these things to. “You should persevere” I say “you know, keep trying” I rephrase, realizing she doesn’t understand the word. “Do what you feel like doing.”

A broad smile spreads across her face and a light comes into her eyes. “Yeah?!” she asks, “Yeah, sure” I respond dispassionately.“Yeah!!” she says, waving her arms high into the air like a boxing champion that has just been declared the winner. The signal announcing my station goes off. She shakes my hand vigorously with damp, clammy hands, realizing I’m leaving, and repeats “You good people, thank you.” I step out onto the platform, more than certain her hands are still waving in the air triumphantly, and I hear another exclamatory “Yeah!!” before the doors close.

Amruta Prabhu was born and raised in Mumbai, India, by a family that encouraged a love of travel and of words. This passion for experiencing different cultures and languages led her to study English literature and Professional Translation. Currently based in Paris, she is a polyglot and translator. Drawing equally from both her Indian culture and love for Europe, her inspiration comes from the details of everyday life and her writing aims at undiluted, honest expression. When not writing, Amruta enjoys photography, tap and Bollywood dancing, eating, laughing, sleeping, music and drinking chai.