The Payphone

I was sitting in those red and yellow counters where police generally sits on a railway platform, sandwiched between an out of breath lady and a swarm of kids on the other side. Waiting for my train.

There was the usual mid-day lull. Clusters of people beneath every ceiling fan. Two girls chatting over something on their phone. Sunlight flushed through the right side.

A boy came out of it, his pace visibly off from the crowd. He was wearing a dull orange t-shirt with polo neck and brown pants folded over ankles. Dust settled on his face, slippers in feet. Around twelve years old. He picked up the receiver from the shining payphone. Held it to his ears in curiosity, dialed some random numbers. Saw the screen display but he couldnt understand it. So he kept it back and was on his way again.

Few minutes later he was back and happy. He tilted to one side and scraped out a coin from his pocket. Now more attentive to the whole process, he put the coin into the payphone and dialed. Waiting in half hope. He put down the receiver, coin clunked out. He tried again this time dialing the number first and then inserting the coin, no luck. The smile of anticipation had long given way to a natural curiosity on how would this payphone work. He tried couple of times again.

There was another spectator standing around three feet behind the boy. None of us knew when he entered and had been there. He had long hair tucked at the back of his ears, around 24 years old, wearing black shirt, collared up, gray jeans and a backpack with an expression of being flabbergasted. Probably new in the city. He was waiting for the boy to figure out the payphone. The boy gave up and began walking away, and the guy stepped ahead to try his luck. Seeing this the boy hopped back and observing the guy he realised the futility of his action. The boy took charge and dialed the number as the guy read it out of this hand. Clunk! The coin flung out. Both of them tried few more times, switching techniques but the payphone just wouldnt relent.

Finally they gave up and walked away smiling and talking about the phone. The guy put a brotherly hand on the boys shoulder and off they went with brighter smiles.


MARCH 16, 2016

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