A thick blanket of dark clouds covered the sky, large droplets of water started to hit the ground forming small cups on the ground. I made a small prayer that the rain god stopped the rain a bit so I can get my ticket first. I followed the slow moving queue with large raindrops hitting my body, I didn't have an umbrella, when I left home it was hot and sunny, I never expected any rain.
I finally got to the ticket office, the wait was like eternity. “Harambe, Freedom Train”, that’s all I said and the lady in the office tossed a pink ticket and a few coins change to me. I grabbed my pink ticket from the ticket office and walked to the gate that led to the waiting rooms. At the gate, a short, fatty man with a mustache stood folding his hands. I showed him my ticket, he said nothing but tipped his head towards the door I was supposed to use. I walked towards the open door, the noise coming out of the door could tell a multitude was in there.
I stood at the door, walked two steps back, something heavy punched my back. A sharp pain forced me to go down on my knees.
“Girl get out of the way!” a voice shouted from behind me. I moved on all fours to the side and the man walked in, he was carrying a large baggage that I could hardly see his face.
The room had a hundred other people or even two hundred. There was buzzing all over, a bee hive I thought to myself. I checked on my ticket, the train to Harambe was leaving in two hours’ time. I was going to spend two hours in this bee hive, I got sick. I stood close to the door to at least get fresh air from outside.
The rains were now falling heavy and noise of rain water on the metal roof of the waiting room made my day even more terrible. An old lady, with all grey hair walked in with a small bag on her head. She handed me her ticket, it was blue.
“Where do we wait for the UMP train?” she asked.
“In here,” I answered and handed her ticket back.
“Where exactly?” she asked again.
“I am not sure, you can asked other people they might help,” I responded.
“So what are you doing here if you can’t help us? That’s the problem with bosses giving their girlfriends jobs!”
“I don’t work……………” I tried to explain myself but she had already walked away waving her hands in anger.
I looked at the roof listening to the rain drops hitting the roof. I tried by all means to avoid interacting with the activities in the room. Its population had doubled since I entered. I hated crowds but on this particular day I was forced to dance to the public music. I didn't want to use the train but my uncle insisted he had no money to waste and I was supposed to get used to all aspects of life. There I was amidst this packed room.
If I could write a book on the experience I was going to name it Freedom Train, or Two hours early. Two Hours Early sounded to me a better title. If I could describe every detail and everyone in the room it was going to be a thousand page manuscript and a best seller. I quietly brainstormed how I was going to start my book if I could, a deafening sound startled my mind bringing me back to the present, and a dark cloud of smoke covered the wet windows, bringing a dark shadow into the room. The locomotive came to a standstill at the platform just across the waiting room.
“Chadcombe Train! Chadcombe Train! To our valued travellers going to Chadcombe, the train will leave in the next 20 minutes. Those with green tickets this is your train,” the lady from the office announced.
Naming the train destination with ticket colours was something new, something I never expected. It now became clear to me why the difference in ticket colours. I wondered if my old granny with the blue ticket knew it wasn't green but blue.
People stampeded on the exit doors to the train. Almost half left the room, it was a relief to me. I walked to one of the windows to have a close look at the train, surely it could not just go. I cleared the mist on the window using my hand. I looked at the old locomotive, it must be a century old or even more, I thought to myself. All the windows had the inscription RR on them. For a moment I tried to figure out what RR meant. Rhodesian Railways, it finally came, so I was right when I estimated the age of it to over a hundred. I prayed that the Harambe Train would be a more modern one.
I watched the coaches slowly moving past, one, two, three, and four………….fifteen. There were fifteen passenger coaches in total followed by four baggage coaches. Two boys cling on the last coach. They must have been street kids, I have heard stories of these street kids stealing from trains.
The sound of the train got faint and faint until there was no sound. A hand tapped on my shoulder. When I turned back, a guy wearing all grey and sunglasses stood close to me. I quickly checked on my sling bag, the zip was still closed at least. He was one of the kind you would never trust near you.
“I think I know you from somewhere,” he said.
He sounded like the words were coming from the nose instead of the mouth. I knew this type of accent from childhood back in the village when grown up boys would come in the village wearing baggy trousers and speaking the town accent as we used to call it. The hands of the clock have however moved and I wondered where this one got this old fashioned tone. I was irritated. He irritated me.
I didn't respond, instead I walked to the other side of the room. It was now full again with the arrivals. A group of traditional dancers that had just arrived was a spectacular view in the room now with their animal skin uniforms. They spoke a language I didn't understand. A small boy around five years came from behind them and started beating one of their drums. The disgruntled mother reached for the small boy and snatched him away. One of the dance group member whom I suppose was the leader said something in his language, I dint get it but I guess he was saying the boy is welcome to the group.
A sound approached the railway station. The sound grew louder and louder until it was clear, another train was getting into the station. Everyone got ready to leave the room, even the dancers. I prayed this was the Harambe train.
A lady approached me with a baby on her back sitting like a child of a baboon. The lady had to bend her back so the baby doesn't fall.
“Can you hold my hen for me so I can tie my baby on my back?” she asked handing me a black and white hen. I freaked out. I developed goose pimples at the sight of the hen.
“I can help you,” someone said.
I turned to look at the helper and there was the guy in sunglasses. I quickly got away from the scene.
“UMP train coming in! UMP passengers get ready! The train will stop for 20 minutes.” Announced a guy from the tickets office. This time he didn't say the colour of the tickets.
The train slowly came to a halt. Majority of the people flocked out of the waiting room. Some twenty or so people were left in the room. I finally got somewhere to sit on the few places available. My legs were heavy now, I had been standing more than one and half hours.
The boy in sunglasses finally left the room, I didn't talk to him, but from his look he was snobbish and that kind that would pretend and act the life he dreams. My old UMP granny now gone, the snobbish boy gone and the mother with her baby and hen gone I felt like I was the only person left in the room. I just prayed that these three UMP passengers don’t get into one coach otherwise there would be really drama. The hen jumping on people, the old granny shouting and my snobbish boy speaking his home made accent.
Another train approached the railway station, the sound was quiet different this time. Is this the one for Harambe? I asked myself. I didn't like the sound, it was like some old grinding mill. Finally the train for Harambe was here. My train finally came. I didn't like the sound neither did I like spending more time in the waiting room.
“Baggage train getting in, move away from the tracks. Baggage train coming to track 5 move away!”
“You are tired, you must have been waiting for a long time.” I looked back, an elderly man said sitting on the bench close to me. I moved away a bit to create enough space for him.
“Sit my daughter,” continued the old man.
“Where are you going?”
“Harambe” I answered without looking at him.
“This country is now tattered, it’ torn, useless!” I didn't answer. I pretended I heard nothing. I have heard same complains from my grandfather, crying for their beloved country.
“This room used to be waiting room, not a wet room like this. Look! It has been raining and they can’t even clean the floors! This government is disgusting!” he fumed.
“Maybe it’s just poor management at this station.” A slim man in sunglasses answered. I looked closely at him, he had no similarities to the UMP guy in any way, and he was his own kind.
“My son, we were served tea waiting for the trains here! This is a parastatal and everything that happens here has got everything to do with the government. The management is poor and useless yes, because the minister takes his muzukuru (niece) without any management qualifications to manage the place. What do you expect?”
“The world has just changed. During your days they could afford coffee because there were a few of you traveling. Nowadays thousands of passengers come and go every day.” Answered the second guy in sunglasses.
“Failure is failure. They should keep abreast with the changing world. Its corruption, nepotism and theft that has destroyed this country. It’s disgusting! It is a pity how you the youth who are the future of this country are just quiet watching the economy go into abyss.”
“What do you want us to do?”
“Demonstrate, go into the streets, shout, do whatever you can do to be head!”
“Sweets for sale sweets…..” I turned my head at look at the sweet seller. The boy was filthy from head to toe. Your appetite for sweets would go by simply looking at him.
I checked my time, I had waited more than three hours now. I was too tired to do anything. I was bored, everything bored me even the people in the room. I have been seeing the same faces hearing the same voices for three hours.
“Harambe Train coming in move away from the tracks.” I didn't hear it coming in, maybe my ears were accustomed to the sound, and the sound was now in me. Finally I could leave the filthy waiting room. I rushed to the door. I don’t know exactly how I got to the door but I was there before anyone else.