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On Sunday, June 6, Lunatic Express made the New York Times Book Review list of summer travel reading, by…
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Many Hands Make Thunder

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Death

By the time S. and I got to Victoria Terminus last night, rush hour was winding down.  The insane and violent eruptions were over; it was just crowded.  So bear that in mind when you watch this short video.

Also, not to get too gruesome – but it’s the reality here – so think about this: at the very same station where much of this was filmed, just 14 hours later a man in his early 30s leapt from the train on his way to work – just as you see people doing here – caught his ankle in the gap between train and platform, and was thrown onto the concrete.  His leg broke in half and he died of massive brain hemorrhaging.  I saw his body three hours later in the mortuary of St. George’s Hospital, an age-blackened, garage-sized concrete block off an alley behind the hospital, where human hearts and spleens and livers float in plastic jars, and the tools of the trade lie about on crumbling marble slabs like wrenches in a car repair shop.  “People just trying to get to their jobs are risking their lives every day,” said Santosh R. Siddu, the Post Mortem Attendant; it was his 291st post mortem this year on train victims within eight kilometers of Victoria; his fourth in 48 hours.  Seventy five percent of the victims are never claimed.  His son Sanjay opened a rusty steel refrigerator door; inside it was unspeakable.  There were dozens of crows outside; their caws will forever remind me what I saw and smelled.

Santosh was wearing battered flip-flops, unhemmed plaid shorts and a Nike golfing cap on atop his gray and orange-colored hair.  Sanjay, 25, had a pair of hip, narrow, frameless glasses.  They lean on each other, hold hands, laugh easily.  They have a bond and their light heartedness is a mask, of sorts. “We drink every day,” they said.  “Without drink you cannot do this job.”

They live next door.

“When I travel on the train,” said Sanjay, “I am very cautious.”

One Response to “Death”

  1. RD Padouk Says:

    Okay, new rule. Breakfast first, *then* thelunaticexpress.

    Thanks for letting us know that this is a quiet time for the trains. Proper mental scaling does, indeed, give a grim picture. But not nearly as grim as the description of that mortuary. I know that it is a cliche that death lurks much closer in the developing world, but your description really brings the truth home.

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