The train is late leaving Orchha.
Hordes of people wait in the station looking to get somewhere else. Ceiling fans mounted to platform shelters attempt to cool the stifling air but manage only to push it around. Air that makes your clothing stick to your body even at six thirty in the morning. The flies are relentless, as is the smell of stale urine and rotting garbage.
The train that will take us to Agra is late. But when it arrives, it's a mad rush to get on and to get off. People's very lives seem to depend upon this crucial transfer from ticket holder to train passenger, from passenger to the newly arrived.
I squeeze into a car marked B-1 represented in the white hand painted script of several languages. I step over suitcases, bags of onions and potatoes, sleeping children, and bodies everywhere. Someone is sleeping on my seat. An old man. He sees me coming, gets the gist of what's happening and gets up. He leaves, never to be seen again.
I set down my bags, pull my hat over my eyes, fall asleep.
An hour later, the train arrives in another station. It's the same deal. Masses of people waiting for the train. Men dressed in loose, bland colored clothing and sandals. Women dressed in colorful sarees, their rich black hair protected with thin veils, their black gem stone eyes accentuated by the blood red mark placed between them in the same manner as Catholic ashes.
The train whistle blows. Not everyone has boarded the train yet. I'm staring out the window when my eyes lock onto a woman who is beginning to panic. She's also dressed in a colorful saree and a veil. She's waving her hands in the air as if this gesture will make the conductor stop the train just for her. But instead the train begins to move. She runs for the still open door, but falls off the platform onto the tracks. The train doesn't buck or make even the slightest of odd movements or sounds when it cuts her left leg off. There are only the screams and shouts of the witnesses on the hot platform. The train stops. The woman is pulled up off of the tracks, her stump bleeding, the amputated leg left behind.
My fixer and I rush outside to see what we can do. But of course we can do nothing. Those who attempt to help the woman run the risk of making the situation worse, and even facing an inquiry of the law should that happen. The woman lies on her back, her hands raised over her head. No one does anything to help her. Her blood stains the hot platform. Soon it will attract the flies.
My fixer turns to me.
"There is a hospital here," he says. "Nearby. But it will take a long time for them to get here."
He shakes his head sadly, and turns.
I follow him back into our car.
As we sit back down, he turns to me once more.
"After the train leaves the station," he says, "they will retrieve her leg."