Once in a few weeks I see off Parmanu at the Midi station at Brussels. I wrote about the trip through the airport last week. Midi station is a completely different experience. We park the car at the free space about 2 minutes walk from the station. As we walk from this car park, we cross a paved ground with tram tracks. There are liquids of unknown origins flowing in streams over this paved area. On the benches here sit about 10 people each with brown and green coloured bottles in their hands, some with spiked hair, some with worn out or torn jackets, some with unbuttoned shirts – a rare sight in this part of the world, some look up as we cross and my first instinct is to walk faster – I keep my eyes straight and cross the benches.
As we cross the tramlines close to the station building, we encounter a person with a tubelike industrial vacuum cleaner. There are cups on the floor, steel foils of coffee creamer, split coffee and strange darker liquids. Parmanu gingerly picks up his heavy suitcase and carries it. I step on my toes to save my shoe soles from assault. As we walk in there are some shops and suddenly we realize it is some days since we came here – there is a new cafe. Yet, we walk to our normal cafe and Parmanu grabs a coffee – a practise every Sunday he leaves from Brussels.
We walk to platform number three on an inclined flat escalator. He checks his coach number and we walk towards the coach. There are people outside the coaches – girls entwined into their loves, not letting go of them. Girls saying goodbye to boys, girls saying goodbye to girls. I think I have yet to see a boy who comes to see a girl off. We cross different coaches and the situation is same at each coach. Some of them move away from the door to let in the single passengers who do not have anyone to see them off .
A girl stands close to the door and Parmanu is not able to enter the train. The whistle blows and he waits for her to stop talking. She does not seem to want to miss even a second. He excuses himself. I stand a few feet away watching this. He climbs into the train and says goodbye. There is a lump in my throat and I am sure in his too – yet our restraint after years of indoctrined discipline about showing affection in public stops us from following the multitude of examples we have.
Normally Parmanu is into the train long before the time of departure and I leave before the train takes off. However, this has been a long weekend and it is more difficult. He enters the train just in time and I walk parallel to him outside the trainas he walks towards seat inside the train. I watch him wait for others to settle down so that he can proceed to his seat. He spots his seat and swings his suitcase to the rack above. I worry about his back. The girl in the seat next to him stands up to let him in – I make a mental note to ask him whether he had a good conversation – he always notes that I manage to get the luck of having interesting companions who are willing to speak while he gets such gems only once in a while.
The train doors close and we wave. He settles down and the train starts moving. As the train picks up speed, two girls break into sprint. Both are blond – their hair, caught into a pony tail, bob up and down their neck over their black T-shirt. Like twins they try to keep apace with the train. ICE is a fast train – it pulls away faster. At the escalator to exit the platform they break their rhythmn into a jog and then to a walk. They turn their attention to the mobile in their hand and fingers begin to type. I walk slowly down the platform and down the escalator. My week has started.
On another note: I work for the change management team – imagine my surprise when I saw this ad…