The train was going to stop at Guntakal for a while.
Guntakal was a big junction, and there, a few more bogies were to be attached to the train before it proceeded to Bombay. At Bombay, her husband would come to receive her, but some 30 hours still separated them. Right now, she was travelling with her two children -- a daughter who was five, and a son who had just turned three. They were travelling from Bangalore.
When the train came to a halt at Guntakal, she saw most male passengers getting down, to stretch their legs and loiter on the platform, to fill water, to have tea, to buy eatables for their families. It was a long stoppage, so no one was in a hurry.
This was the first time she was travelling unaccompanied for such a long distance. And this was the first time she was going to Bombay. Her husband had got posted there only six months ago, and now she was taking the children along for summer vacation. She looked at the water bottle. There was water but that might not be sufficient. She wasn't sure when the next station would come.
'Looks like the train is going to wait here for a while,' she suggested to herself, 'why not fill up the bottle?' She got up and stood at the door of the coach, looking out nervously at the length of the platform. She could see two taps sprouting out from opposite sides of a tiled pedestal. Not very far away. She walked up to it, filled up the bottle and was returning to the coach when she saw the train move.
She ran. The train was leaving her behind. Worse, it was carrying her two children away! Actually the train wasn't. Only the extra bogies were being attached to it -- the momentum makes the entire train move by a few metres, something that seasoned travellers were familiar with. She ran, and just as she was about to hop into the coach, she slipped and fell through the gap between the train and the platform. She died.
The train left at its scheduled time. Why should it wait, anyway? Guntakal was just one of the numerous stations that fell on the way, and she was just one of the 1,500 passengers it was carrying. Accidents happens, life goes on. The individual does not count.
Instead of the bogies being attached, had a moving train rammed this stationary train from behind, and if a few hundred people had died, then the value of each individual's death would have been jacked up manifold. In that case, it would not have been just an accident, but a rail accident. A rail accident makes banner headlines in newspapers and counts as breaking news for TV channels. But the news of a lone woman dying in a freak rail accident would not interest TV channels; though newspapers often find such news handy as a filler.
But if you view the death of this woman from a magnifying glass, you will find countless heart-wrenching questions staring back at you. What happened to her body? What happened to the kids? When did the husband get to know? Did he get to know at all? Are the kids safe? But no one probes these questions. After all, it is the death of an individual. Who cares!
Every drop makes an ocean. But individually, a single drop does not count; it has no value unless it joins other drops and forms a river, if not an ocean. As an individual, it can only wait to dry up or be wiped off by a human. The same is true for humans. If a hundred of us die together in a terrorist attack, news channels are bound to flock our respective homes, asking our grieving families what we ate for breakfast that fateful morning before falling victim to the terrorists' bombs or bullets.
But if one of us, an individual, gets killed in a freak accident or by the bullet of a goonda in the neighbourhood, we are mentioned in the 'Crime Briefs' column of the local newspaper. It does not interest the media one bit whether we had a hearty breakfast or good sex before being put to sleep forever.