THE LEVEL CROSSING


  
 
Thanks to a school drop-off and pick-up routine, I wrote this a few years ago inspired by my daily experiences at the local level crossing in India.  It brought back reminiscences of my childhood trips through the country roads of Rajasthan.



The Level Crossing

All is fine at the level crossing.
Traffic is smooth, over the train tracks vehicles are passing.
Until the crossing guard shuts the gate, warning lights blink, alarm begins to sound,
It’s time for all traffic to stop, there’s no getting around!

“Train is coming! Train is coming!
Bell is ringing, train is coming!”
From her car Mala shouts, very excited,
Art source: ILCAD drawing contest
Waiting for a train to be sighted.
She is ready for it to zoom past,
To count the railcars - all till the very last.

 But the train takes a long time to arrive,
The summer heat makes people eager to get on and drive.
Vehicles begin sounding their horns,
The noise they make pierces ears like thorns.


People on foot and those with bicycles don’t care,
They cross the tracks around the gate, they don’t despair!
Dutifully the crossing guard puts an end to that,
“The train is on its way, all must be clear around the tracks.”


“Open the gate! Open the gate!” the people shout out loud.
The crossing guard is used to this, so he ignores the crowd.
A snack vendor arrives just in time,
To cool off everyone with his fruit and lime.

Mala too begins to get edgy.
Her mother gives her biscuits to keep her busy.

Even the waiting elephant with mahout gets restless.

It flicks its tail to keep away the flies countless.
A bullock cart waits ahead.
The bulls stamp their feet and shake their heads.

Finally, there is relief as a train sounds its horn.
At last, the train is here! Now the wait won’t be long!
Mala happily gazes at the train,
And counts the railcars from engine to tail.
 
Vehicles turn on their engines as the train begins to pass.
Everyone's ready to cross the tracks, but the gate doesn’t open, alas!
For another train comes slowly by,
Chugging along with heavy goods to supply.

Mala is the only one thrilled,
Like her wish has just been fulfilled.
“Mummy, look! This train is longer than the first one!”
Mummy smiles but, like the others, can’t wait to be done.

When the second train is gone, the people can wait no longer.
“Open the gate and let us go before there is another.”
Yippee! At last the gate opens!
The warning lights and alarm are turned off in less than a second.

Everyone wants to be the first to get through.
If they followed a queue, it would be such a virtue!
But with patience when their wish doesn’t come true,
Honking and shouting is just what they do!


The oncoming traffic is another challenge,
With neither tolerance nor care, vehicles take the plunge.
Everyone moves ahead to cross the tracks -
Cars, autos and trucks, while motorbikes and scooters fill the gaps.
The elephant and bulls stay behind,
To let the madness pass before they join the line.

Mala watches the chaos around her -
The impatient people and unbearable noise that surround her.
But soon after her car has crossed and gathered speed,
She is comfortable and fast asleep.

All is fine at the level crossing.
Traffic is smooth, over the train tracks vehicles are passing.
Until the crossing guard shuts the gate, warning lights blink, alarm begins to sound,

Once again, it’s time for all traffic to stop, there’s no getting around!

Comments

Popular Posts