Fiction: Suicide on a Railway Track

Aju Mukhopadhyay

Aju Mukhopadhyay

Brief Bio
Among the books the author has published three books of short stories are in Bengali and two are in English. Though his stories have been published in many distinguished magazines, translated and anthologised in Indo-Australian Anthology, Book of Indian Short Stories in German language and other anthologies, he once edited a short story magazine and one of his stories was prized, he doesn’t often write stories.

Written over a period of nearly nine years, there are 13 short stories in this volume covering different genres and topics like social including ethnic and ethical, eerie and a story with animals among the subjects. They have different hues sometimes with branches spreading to other countries as the writer is an ever traveller, interested in human stories across the Nations. Different as they are, each story draws reader’s attention towards something new, often piquant.


On a full moon night in October each year that scene repeats itself; a train running in full speed through the illumined railway tracks exactly at 9 o'clock at night and a woman, almost naked, running for life with shrill cry chased by a man. She jumps before the train as it comes near and is run over. Few who know come to the spot even from distant places where they migrated sometime after the accident occurred to witness the scene. After the train passes the whole scene plunges in darkness. No more train, no running, no chasing, no cry, no suicide. Yes, I too am a regular visitor to the spot on the yearly night.

     Hearing the rumour some non-believers reported it to the police and others but none could make a dent. They confirmed that such an accident never happened. It is rumoured that all the temporary residents in the surrounding jhopris near the railway line left the area one by one in quick succession after the original accident. It is full of weeds and bushes now. Some trains pass over the rails daily at long intervals during the day and night but that scene is repeated only on a particular night, once in a year. Some old witnesses to the scene still come who once lived in the vicinity as if to celebrate the ritual. Gradually due to death or other unavoidable reasons the numbers of persons attending have dwindled.

     I must confess that I go there being addicted to the story but I have never been able to entirely believe in it because what I witnessed was not very clear. Each time when people attending it came near and talked about the accident it gave a semblance to truth. Doubt still rises in my heart; maybe it is an illusion. I am not sure if others who come are not attracted by the rumours only. Even after the last visit I tried to contact the persons who I remembered have been there but none could I trace. None of my neighbours is sure if such persons ever lived there or if they have even known some of them; they are not sure if they are still alive. It happened some three generations ago. The present generation of the families which once lived there are neither aware nor interested to lend their ears to the legend. The railway track is still deserted. Sometimes I wonder if I was really there or it was a dream only. It is a very weird situation to which any effort to find a solution seems puzzling. The legend lives as we live. Years passed by like the last year. Living in the neighbourhood area I pass sometimes by even at night with either my family members or some friends and find the track desolate as before. Some regular trains pass by at regular times which we know by name. There is no railway station nearby. Even my family members never know of it or about my visit. 

     Only a nonagenarian neighbour knows of my presence as he too participates. Usually he does not go out of doors. He is a distant relative of the residents of the house. I am a tenant here. He lives silently, talks less. “When I became lonely after my wife died in an accident my relatives came from the forgotten village, and I gave them shelter. We had no issues. They keep me now. After all, what is there in a house? Living is what matters.” The nonagenarian told me once.

     Yes, this year too I was present there on that particular night. After a drizzle the sky was clear and moon shone brighter. Only three, four persons gathered who stood scattered at distances, none within the hearing range. As usual, my neighbour was also present, standing very near to the railway line. By the time that I was thinking of approaching him, the whistle of the train was heard and the train entered the scene. It ran as usual with high speed, smokes whirling and spreading above the engine, and the half naked woman was running for life chased by none else than my next door neighbour. She jumped before the train followed by the man. The shrill cry was reverberating in the air but the train passed without any hesitation.

     The whole surrounding became calm and quiet again with the moon above, sky cloudless. All present on the scene came close to the body of the dead man. None spoke. It was no woman’s body. To my surprise the dead one was my nonagenarian neighbour. He was freed from life.

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