Believe me, it gets sole-burning hot in summer. This is why I’m up with the birds for my morning walk. A quarter past six, sees me marching across Hannan’s Street towards Piccadilly. This ladies and gentlemen, is not London, but Kalgoorlie. I’m crossing the lines.
Any Indian can tell you that crossing a railway line is something of an adventure. Usually, this is done without the benefit of an overbridge and with one eye to oncoming trains. If there is a walkway in a station, then it is generally conquered step by step – think Mt. Everest here – and against an avalanche of descending (or ascending) fellow passengers. No doubt, you’ve read about the recent Kumbh Mela stampede?
On most mornings, I’m a lone ranger as I cross the Kalgoorlie railway bridge. Sometimes there’s the occasional other jogger to keep me company. On some days I pass nurses on their way to work at Kalgoorlie hospital. I don’t really miss the masses. The station on my right looks deserted, although I know there are probably people getting on the Prospector this very minute.
Usually, if I’m lucky, I’ll catch sight of a long tail of a freight train carrying Pacific National containers passing below. On another day, I heard a warning hoot and as I top the incline leading up to the bridge, I see a yellow engine coming round the bend. The driver seems surprised to see someone watching. Is he afraid I’ll jump? He cranes his neck to get a better look as he passes below. I simply wait and walk on. Should I have waved?
A week later, I’m on the road again. Crossing the lines has become my favourite thing to do each morning. The sun on my back is quite warm already, as I pass St. Mary’s school, which smells like a new term.
In the distance, there is a familiar whistle. I stop for a moment on the bridge and the yellow engine comes into view. I’m reminded of Thomas the Tank Engine and wonder if there could be a story about his Australian cousins. This time, the driver’s assistant leans out, looks up, and raises his hand in salute. It’s just one brief moment shared with another human being on this deserted morning. Suddenly, it feels wonderful to be alive. I wave back.