I have never found travelling ‘fun’. It has never been an amazing experience. For me, travelling has always meant heaviness, load and weight – the weight of heavy bags slowly creeping up my veins and crawling all the way to my heart, and I, spending the whole time fortifying my heart to contain that mass in my chest. I’m restless, unpleasant, and anxious throughout and I only breathe a sigh of relief when I reach the destination.
This mass in my chest digs up my anatomy to make room for itself and in its course, it revives the deepest anxieties and traumas. So, there I am, carrying two bags and walking towards the railway station or the airport, facing my fears. There’s no place I’ve felt more alone than while I’m travelling. It’s ironic because the railway station and the airport are two places that can never be empty. They are bustling with people of all colours, going places with their families, friends, colleagues or sometimes like me, all by themselves. And these people watch me struggle as I carry my bags up the stairs or just pop back into their phones. I strive against the load and somehow manage my way through, and in that moment I miss familiarity.
Getting to my seat with the agony of leaving my safe space, my peace to somewhere unknown even after years of habitation makes me want to puke. Even the thought triggers me to the extent of panic. Battling my thoughts isn’t enough because I have to battle the perverted stares of my fellow passengers. A woman in this country can never be safe as men who can’t touch satisfy themselves through their eyes.
Just two hours into the journey and I have puked twice. I avoid going to the washroom because we all know railway washrooms are never clean, but how long can one hold the bladder?
Another bolt of nausea hits me while visiting the washroom and yet another while brushing my teeth because someone had spat paan in the basin. All this weight closes in on me as I constantly check my wallet and bags to make sure I haven’t been robbed, simultaneously avoiding one middle-aged uncle gawking at me. The view outside is pleasant but I don’t have the eyes to see it. There’s a layer of unhappiness clouding my cornea like a cataract. At night I sleep crawling up towards the window, my back facing all the wrong in the world. My handbag is clinging to my chest. This sleep, is a sleep of impotence. I’m not sleepy, I’m exhausted from carrying that mass in my chest but I’m vigilant for whatever I have left. This mind knows that it isn’t home and nothing is safe here, neither my belongings nor my tender heart.
So curve more and more making a safe house between my thighs and my ribs where I lay my insecurities while my eyes rest. They open every other moment to check on the surroundings and this cycle continues till they see the sun again. In the morning I see people getting dressed for the destination is near. They are cheerful and inform their relatives/seniors/ colleagues/ friends of their arrival. But for me, it’s time to swallow nausea and place the insecurities back where they belong. I hold the bags again while walking up the stairs but they’re not as heavy as they were before. All the heaviness is afflicted inside me within wired walls and I wonder for how long will I be able to carry myself before I collapse because there’s no one to save me.
Swati Singh is a medical student who is exploring the power of words.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty