Claustrophilia

An abnormal desire for confinement in an enclosed space

Merriam-Webster; claustrophilia

Merriam-Webster’s medical definition sounds a bit judgmental. Let’s ignore the word ‘abnormal’ in there. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been enamored with the idea of surviving in some small space, where people found lesser, cheaper, alternatives to every-day life. This would be strange to me if I didn’t have an explanation for it all.

I know where it all began.

This is a picture I found in an article from the Daily Mail in a piece about how they’re redoing the New Delhi Station. Juxtaposed next to this image is another one done by an artist – a concept art of what it could look like with tremendously high ceilings, white tiles, and sleek trains. I guess the concept art was the focus point of the article. But I’m stuck staring at the before picture.

My cousin sister and I would be on the second-story bunk, while my mother and my cousin’s mother would be on the third-story. The elders had the luxury of the bottom bunk, where the window and leg-room gave the illusion that you weren’t in the company of 5 other people inside of a 5 cubic meter area.

There wasn’t much of a difference between the second-story and third, beyond the fact that perhaps the third was a bit roomier. And you didn’t have the nagging worry of the bunk above you collapsing onto you, which proved to be more of a naïve fear of my own, rather than a wide-spread concern.

But I think the most important lure for the third-story – the reason why my mother and her sister got it – was that it was the most distant from the pandemonium going on below. Children zoom by, beggars clap coins together in their hands, chaiwalas repeatedly announce their brand of tea, scammers and entrepreneurs and lovers and cripples blend into a mesh of orange and white and green and blue.

This exploding microcosm existed, impossibly, inside and around every train. Is it so hard to believe that an imaginative kid could let his mind run wild in a place like this? We were on a steam engine, roaring away from the end of the world. Outside, in the howling night wind, were the demons. And inside was our army, men and women of different origins, with different powers. The rhythmic thumps of the train car against the tracks tolled the war that raged on behind us. And in between my mother and my grandmother’s bunk, on the second story, I clutched on excitedly to a blanket that left me feeling slightly cold, drunk from the jittery excitement of being surrounded by possibility.

I’ve long since forgotten that feeling. I remember what it felt like to feel that way. But I can’t bring myself to feel it again.

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