Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A Strange Encounter

Travelling by train is a miniature of our life-journey. We arrive at the station, board a train to our destination, meet so many strangers, interact with them, and finally depart waving good-bye to them. Sometimes, a brief encounter leaves us with a strange yet sweet remembrance now and then to be renewed at every journey we make.
My train to Bangalore 'Sanghamitra' was running 6 hrs. behind its scheduled time because of the intense fog, a regular feature in Winter, and had reached Allahabad at 7.30 in the morning.
She was a woman of approaching forty-five, clad in plain clothes - a woolen scarf, blue shawl, floral printed saree paired with a handbag with its seams open and a gaping zip showing the bulge of clumsy tits and bits. She clambered onto the foot rails of the train which had just started  gathering up its momentum. Somebody acted wisely pulling the chain to save her faltering steps. The next moment she was inside the A.C.II compartment gasping and panting with an embarrassed smile on her lips, which usually comes when one is caught red handed in the middle of an unapproved act.
Recovering from that initial unnerving jolt, she said,"Can I sit here for a while?" A few nods of approval enabled her to sit by my side.
She started mumbling to overcome her embarrassment " This is how one falls from a running train while trying to board...legs slip from the foot dangerous! What can I do...all the trains are running so late...not a single train has arrived today since morning and I have to be in time to join my duty."
I asked,"Where do you work?"
"I'm in the Force posted at Mirzapur."
Just then the pantry car vendor arrived with his tray of breakfast in his sing-song voice,"Bread-Cutlet, Bread-Omelette..Sir!"
I ordered only for omelette and asked him how much I'd have to pay for it. "Twenty-seven Rupees, auntie."
Not having enough change, I handed him a fifty rupee note. He took it and started foraging his pocket hanging out from his soiled apron. "Ma'm, Why don't you have a full b'fast of bread and butter? I don't have loose change to return you."
Meanwhile, the stranger woman had been contemplating over the entire situation. "Do you have bread with butter? How much will I have to pay for it?"
Distracted by the wistful look in her eyes for bread and butter, I asked the vendor to keep back the change of three Rupees and give the bread and butter to her.The vendor readily obliged me  with a sweet smile.
She hesitatingly said that she would pay for it. "It's so rushy and hectic in the morning, preparing b'fast and sending my three children to school that I hardly get time to have a cup of tea for myself. Then this rush to catch a train to reach on!"
Remembering my early days of commuting to Patna for B.Ed. classes, gulping down just a few bites in order to catch the Shuttle train, I insisted expressing how much pleasure it would give me sharing the b'fast with her. Some deep urge in me derived satisfaction from the whole situation; the woman, relishing the b'fast of bread and butter who had to be on her job empty stomach for earning bread and butter for her family.
I kept talking to her about her children and her work while she ate. The train had started moving again but had changed its track. I expressed my doubt. "Are you sure that this train is to stop at Mirzapur?" 
"Yes, day before yesterday, I boarded this train and it stopped at Mirzapur station."
"But I doubt it as it has changed its route" I said.
She made a call to get it confirmed and then alighted as the train had started catching on the speed. From the window, I saw her asking some G.R.P.F. men who pointed to the other side of the platform. Till then the train had gathered its full momentum and the sight of the stranger woman was lost in the fleeting views of the platform leaving me to marvel at that strange encounter.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

मोमबतियां जला लो

जला लो, जला लो 
और जला लो 
आज और
मोमबतियां जला लो
गूंगी जुबां औ
लकवे भरे इन हाथों से
दम तोडती
इंसानियत पे
एक और मोमबत्ती
जला लो। 

सुंदर दिखती हैं 
मोम्बतियों की
ये जगमगाती पंक्तियाँ 
पर तले सिमटे
उस अँधेरे को 
मत भूलना
बुझने से पहले 
उसे भी जला दो
खुद भी पिधल जाओ
पिघल, पिघल बह जाओ
उस सिमटे अँधेरे को भी
पिघला, बहा ले जाओ।

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Pink fluffy Cotton Candies

Book Fair was there in the town and excitement was at fever pitch among the book lovers.
The car raced past Gandhi Maidan and my eyes caught hold of the sight of a hawker surrounded by little children. The man kept ringing the bell he was carrying along with the bamboo pole of pink coloured fluffy cotton candies. It brought back many past memories of childhood days when after cleaning the house of all the waste materials as like, read newspapers, old copies, books etc., we waited eagerly for that Tunnnnn tunnnnn...sound followed by the cacophonous voice of the candy man. Out we spilled of the door into the street carrying the sack of the unwanted, unusable things, And what could be a better reuse of those unusable things than selling them to the kabadiwala (the scrap dealer) who just be-fooled us giving only a small lump of the fluffy cotton candy on a piece of paper in return for that whole sack of wasteful things.
We asked for more," Why are you giving us so little? We gave you that whole sack of variety of  things." But, in vain.Our hungry and desperate gaze kept following him till he vanished round the curved lane.

It was the same look in the eyes of that little boy who had come to visit the book fair with his school mates escorted by two teachers. He was rather the youngest in that group. My husband, son and I had taken a whole round of the book-stalls, browsing the pages, reading the reviews and selecting them to buy. Finally we were so tired and exhausted that we dropped down on the grass listlessly with the load of  books in our carry bags. My son went to get a bottle of mineral water for us. People around us just ambled, mostly thronged at the food stalls or the coffee stall. Some young couples were enjoying themselves being a part of that milling crowd with no one to identify them. A platform was raised in the middle of the ground for some plays to be staged and from there someone was announcing the names of the winners of the Lucky Draw. A slight chill had crept in the air. The slanting rays of the sun falling on the grass and the thin film of dust mingled with the crowd lent a sort of detached look to the whole scene. The little boy stood there with his hands in the pockets and legs placed slightly apart. Near to him, were two boys with pink cotton candies. I saw the boy moving in the direction of those two boys. I thought he would ask for that candy but he didn't do anything like that. He simply stood there with his face drawn, mouth slightly open gazing intently at those candies. His school teacher saw him and asked him to join the line, rather took him by his shoulder. Though the boy obeyed his teacher but, unwillingly, his gaze never for once veering off from those fluffy cotton candies. He was too young to prefer books to those candies. Those fat, leather covered books with gold binding meant nothing to him but boring bricks before those tempting mouth-watering candies..
Something churned and created a tumult of feelings inside me. My heart went out for that child, one in the rambling crowd.  It felt to me as if I was seeing my own child craving for those pink candies. I couldn't take it any more " Just look at that child...the looks in his he is craving for those candies!" I said to my husband (who himself was a great child-lover) who had also been looking at that child for sometime. As if waiting for this,he readily got up and bought a whole bunch of those pink fluffy cotton candies and placed them in the child's hand. I can never forget that confused yet contended look in the boy's eyes. The teacher came to his help because till then he had become an object of envy for his group mates. She distributed those candies among them letting the boy have two of them for himself.
My son had come back till then with the bottle of mineral water and we took our leave from there carrying a part of the book Fair in our mind and heart never to be erased-"The Boy and the Pink Cotton Fluffy Candies."