Station To Station

Entry by: Godai41

24th July 2015

The train makes a sudden stop—no station.

No one aboard, or nearly no one aboard, awakens.

Only a child, traveling with her mother, totally awake and alert, notices, reacts.

Slithering off silently, the child steps down from the stupefied train and calmly, contently, standing next to the train stopped on the track, experiences the absolute quiet of the stationless stop in a sunny, bucolic setting.

Uttering not a word to her mom before leaving the train, because in addition to perhaps not wanting to utter a word to her mom or anyone, she cannot. She and her Pakistani mom boarded this train in the first place to travel to Delhi in order to pray for a cure of her total speech impediment at Nizamuddin Dargah, a vaunted mausoleum. Never in her five years has she uttered a single word.

The train, with her sleeping mother aboard, suddenly departs.

Such an action and moment become the platform of Salman Khan’s film Bajrangi Bhaijaan, a film released during Eid weekend 2015 (

The main character, Barjangi, before he meets the child he alone will save has had no “station” in life at which to stop. He is debased and debunked, not to mention slapped, by his father his entire childhood because he keeps failing a very important school test all his youth, and when he finally passes it at a somewhat older age, his father then dies soon after. His father before dying advises him to go to Delhi and try to work there. In Delhi he finds Shahida, yea creates, the new, self-created “station” of his life, the young, lost girl.

Each of the other characters whom Barjangi meets on his quest to unite the lost, speechless Shahida with her mom seem to have a prescribed or conventional station that contrasts with the main character’s newly created station: those Pakistani soldiers, especially border guards, chasing him to punish him for trying to enter and entering the country illegally; a Pakistani whom Barjangi attempts to pay to take and help Shahida; and the tv newsperson who reports Barjangi’s actions and movements.

Again and again on this difficult quest he averts entering any safe stations offered to him. Instead even on threat of death he reiterates his only intention: to do good for another human being, Shahida. In his youth he has already learned to renounce study, especially for tests, and the remunerative careers they promise, to him extremely local, stations not even worth a minute’s stop.

Fervently seeking at first to put Shahida in safe, concerned hands, he pays a humongous sum to an agent who promises to protect Shahida and help find her mom. When Barjangi discovers the agent has duped him and is trying to put Shahida in a prostitute ring, he bravely rescues her, forcefully seizing her from the mercenary agent’s headquarters, and exits that station holding his fellow earthly passenger, swerving to commit himself no matter how long it takes and how difficult the quest is to find Shahida’s mom and re-unite Shahida with her mom in Pakistan, a location by all traditional tracks out of reach to him.

Barjangi’s stops in and encounters with faux stations and those employed at faux stops are numerous and threatening. Most obviously and most reiterated of such encounters show violent, uniformed, armed soldiers beating Barjangi time after time. Having already captured him, even at the Pakistani border itself, they cannot incarcerate his commitment NOT to deliver the confession they assume true and want. Befuddled by the utter simplicity and steadfastness of his stated motivation to bring speechless daughter and terrified mother together, the soldiers can only beat, beat, and beat him again. They don’t hear and cannot hear a confession that doesn’t resemble confessions life has trained them to know. Finding their train-ing takes them to Barjangi stations they have never before visited or seen, they can only scream, scream, scream, beat him, beat him, and beat him more with their clubs.

Chand Nawab, a Pakistani tv reporter, discovers the allure for viewers of Barjangi’s quest and peregrination, and follows Barjangi and Shahida on Barjangi’s perilous, learn-as-he-goes voyage to a destination nameless almost until arrival. Shahida because of her speech disability cannot speak the name of the place where she lives. The reporter at first seeks only a large viewing following for the hit feature he happens upon. Little by little, moment by moment, the sphere of his camera person assistant and his own listening devices, yes, his own ears, expand. He begins to hear and understand not only Barjangi’s words but Barjangi’s stationless, fully receptive sphere of thought. He begins to report the undercurrent he senses in Barjangi not only to his viewing audience but to his own heart, his own understanding. He builds a “station” larger than the tv station and its audience, not ordered to serve anywhere by anyone or anything above or outside himself, but of his own will, perhaps even not fully known even to himself. To succeed in this endeavor he craftily avoids not only his station headquarters but also averts the old-track traveling Pakistani armed forces pursuing both him and Barjangi.

Having a lot in common, Barjangi and Shahida feel very close to each other. Shahida cannot speak, and so no one or very few understand what she feels or thinks. Although Barjangi can speak, many of those he encounters in the film also do not understand his feelings or ideas. Both characters in the film occupy stations in life different from the usual stations the majority of humans occupy or are assigned. Soldiers, either draftees or career soldiers, for example, are stationed in different locations according to a nation’s purposes or needs. Non-military personnel either inherit or through education and work come to occupy certain stations reflected in their type of work and the pay they receive for it, their neighborhoods, even the vehicles they may own and operate.

Barjangi through experience and self-scrutiny, selected a station connected to his feelings and principles, exceeding geographical, political, religious and other such boundaries established by society. Through his unplanned, chance meeting with Shahida he moved toward choosing actions he felt pulled to and desired to follow.

Many humans follow tracks, literal and figurative, they don’t enjoy and deep down don’t want or like to travel. These include, of course, the actual commutes they take to work seemingly endless days, the jobs they continue at although they don’t care about the goals or purposes of the careers, the people they continue to associate and even live with out of routine rather than interest or feelings, and, of course, the communication systems they immerse themselves in, including media and film viewing devices and “smart” phones.

One doesn’t need to look far beyond these tracks to find the solace and perhaps even the hope of altering, reperceiving, the stations to which such tracks lead. Ionesco revealed to humans some of their stationing rituals. Similarly, the carefully unplanned journey, the dérive, especially the urban free walk (érive), can inspire anyone to devise a different path today and the next day and the next. In a short story “The Green Door” by O’Henry (William Sydney Porter) a quasi Dérive leads Rudolf Steiner, the main character, to totally revamp a stranger’s life as did Barjangi. As he walks a crowded New York City street Rudolf receives a card from someone distributing cars for a commercial venture. The card reads “The Green Door.” The character enters the building where he received the card and ascends the staircase, reaching high up a green door. After he knocks on the door, a woman opens the door and from hunger faints into his arms. Having no money, she has been without food for several days, starving. The man filled with compassion hastily descends to buy food and drink and return to the apartment. As he leaves, seeing the person who handed out the cards, he asks him about the green door, and is pointed to a business a few doors away named “The Green Door.” His readiness to de-track and move to an unknown station leads him to his own green door. Thoreau who likewise pointed the way to select one’s own stations, literal and otherwise, would not have found the discovery of the green door surprising.

Keats, above all, not so long ago in his brief time with us, through negative capability espoused the ability and fertility of a human being deciding for himself or herself how to perceive, think, and live in his or her own station, not one built by others. He recognized that leaving from and arriving at the same station day after day made taking in the world from an unfamiliar, untried vantage point a formidable challenge.

The setting, then, of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, has no aura of accident in it. The Pakistani-Indian border setting and the absence of a train station at a stopping point reflect life rather than stand as exceptions in human life. Departing from and arriving at known stations rule human life; even one-day’s difficulties in schedule—consider the rage of New Jersey commuters in recent days to one day of delayed and cancelled border crossings to New York—destabilizes humans addicted to unchanging daily station to station movement. The “border” between experiencing familiar, habitual life and perceiving life from another’s raw life perspective, whether that person identifies as speech disabled or, as posted in some Indian transport, merely differently abled, remains formidable. Few ever consider even beginning Barjangi’s border crossing either in reality or metaphorically. How few then directly, straightforwardly state and live their conviction to experience life without having a known arrival station in mind.

The inspiring image of a human being’s pure desire to do good for another human being rather than to conceal that sole desire or motivation, as revealed in Barjangi’s encounters in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, can enhance the opportunity, engender, and even inspire others to dare to take journeys without definite arrival points and to create stations they themselves believe in and build.