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.

1 comment:

  1. Going through it i wonder why i have not penned some of the similar moments i encountered. Good one madam. I am still learning English From You.