Saturday, October 15, 2011


It was around midnight when I reached the railway station. Thanks to the festival season, a confirmed reservation status was a distant dream. The station was virtually deserted, barring a handful of voyagers who had arrived in the previous train and were making their way out into the town. There was no clamour of Auto walaahs and taxi walaahs unlike that of the big city I was so used to. I managed to wake up the lady at the ticket counter. The expression on her face portrayed me as doing a heinous act, trying to legitimately buy a ticket as she handed me a general class ticket for my destination. Bengaluru.

With my trolley bag, I moved on to the second platform. There was nearly an hour to go for the scheduled arrival of my train. That is, if Indian Railways does the noble and improbable act of driving my train somewhere close to an “On Time” status. I grabbed a cup of coffee from a stall on the virtually deserted platform. God, coffees at railway stations suck big time..!! High time these people think of renaming the brew and maybe applying for a patent for it. Coffee...!!!!

I moved on. Found an empty bench. Not as if finding an empty bench in a deserted station in a sleepy southern town in India was a strenuous affair. I sat, grateful to the “coffee”. That was the only thing that could keep me awake at this time of the day. Aah, how I longed for a bed to sleep. It was not to be tonight. Reservation status blank.

It was when I threw away the coffee cup on to the track after finishing and thinking what next to occupy myself with when I noticed a girl walking in my direction. She stood out of the crowd, simply by her conduct. Her attire, her countenance….and the fact that she was talking on a mobile phone made her stand out in the skimpy crowd. Plus maybe the fact that she walked towards my direction and settled herself on a concrete bench adjacent to mine.

Who was she talking to..? Her boyfriend...? At her age I had stood at this times at a lot of railway stations. But that was a time when people were a lot more restrained. But not youth. In the prime of youth, when we used to travel in groups, we literally used to make every journey a celebration. And the time spent waiting for station were always memorable. Laughing, shouting and commenting, we really used to make our presence felt. Aaah..those thoughts, they never cease to make me nostalgic. Surely not now, when you are standing almost alone in a small station, almost uncomfortably silent.

Except for the girl talking on her phone.

She cut the call and moved closer to the tracks. It was clearly visible – the tension on her face. She so badly wanted the train to come. To get on with the journey.

At last the Railway God smiled..!!! The train arrived. I got in and managed to find a window seat. And imagine my surprise when I found myself staring straight to the same girl talking on the same phone sitting right across me. I debated whether to initiate a conversation or mute myself when the girl accosted.

“Excuse me, what time will the next station be..? I have to recharge my mobile..."

“It’ll be nearly an hour and half from here. You can use my phone if you want to...”

She politely declined and I thought I saw a hint of a small smile spread across her face when her mobile buzzed again. The traces of the expression I thought I saw vanished in a flash.

“What did he say..? Uncle..? Aunty had promised she’ll convince him...”

“Please...don’t tell me there is no change.”

“Okay. Call back if anything comes up.”

My curiosity augmented manifold. The feeling was intensified when the expression on her face further deteriorated. It was evident, she was controlling herself from not sobbing. Was the person in front of me facing the deepest crisis of her life..? May I help..or will it be inappropriate to ask..?

The whimper of the phone cut into my thoughts again.

“Amma please. You just need to say a yes. If you can’t do it, no one else can. I know Appa loves us. He can’t do this...”

“Amma he won’t do it. He can’t. He loves me...”

It seemed Amma cut the phone because she was cut in the middle of the sentence. What did her father do that is causing so much distress in her..? Whatever it is, it is really tearing her apart right now. My thoughts raced faster than the train as she put the phone back into her handbag with a deep sigh. In less than a minute it was back to where it belonged – beside her ears.

“ you’ve misunderstood the situation. It was never quite the way you perceived...”

“Amma can’t live without you. And you know it...”

The conversation tapered off. But what was the matter. Was her parents on the verge of a separation..? can they do this to her..? Couldn’t they think of her before doing something this catastrophic..? My psyche was flooded with questions. And the gentle breeze fluttering across the window was so comforting for a tired body and it was just a matter of times before I had dozed off.

An unfamiliar ringtome woke me up in the dead of the night. It was her phone buzzing on her seat. “Uncle” came printed on the display. She was nowhere to be seen. Good God, where is she..? Did she commit any suicidal act..? I found myself very depressed with that thought. There wasn’t anyone I could ask...everyone else around was sleeping soundly. Clenching her phone in my wrist, I dashed across to near the toilet.

Thank God, she was there. I was shocked seeing her expression, she was uncontrollably sobbing. She took the phone from my hand. Undecided what to do I hung around there for a few seconds. When I felt that my presence was dissuading her from speaking freely on the phone, I made my way to my seat. I could make out pieces of the conversation on one side.

“But I had told them it is not true.”

“Uncle, please. Do try once more. No I haven’t given up hope.”

I waited, anxiously. For her to come back. It was actually a tug-of-war going on – between an extremely tired body refusing to lay awake and an anxious mind preventing the slumber to come its way. It took the better part of an hour for the former to win over the latter but it eventually happened. And all the while I had waited her to come, to know what happened. She didn’t come.


I was woken up by the continuous clamor that came with the Bengaluru railway station. Aaah back Bengaluru. I got up from my seat and stretched myself. It took a moment for me to come to my senses and that was when I realized – the girl was no there..!! Neither was her phone or any of her belongings. Cursing myself for sleeping the way I did, I rushed to check the either end of the compartment. It was empty, there was no one there. It seemed it had been around 5-10 minutes since the train had arrived at the station. She might have alighted and made her way. Or she might have alighted at some earlier station. Or she might it can’t happen.

The train..had completed its journey. I had reached my destination. All of my co-passengers had. Well, did she reach her destination..? I don’t know. I wish she did. Maybe I believe she did...


Mistified said...

hmm.. nice...

Devdeep said...

Very well written. I liked the idea of the protagonist remaining a mute spectator.. but was this just a story?