It has been almost a decade, and even now I encounter the same question again and again – how did you two meet? With most of the people I give the short and terse answer, “We met on the train“. And almost all reply with, “Destiny!“. Very few know the whole truth, well today I am in a mood to write, so I’ll pen down the story.
Indian Railways and Summer Vacations have always had a strong love-hate relationship. For me this combination turned out to be indeed lucky. It was the time when people would normally think twice before stepping out in the hot sun and yet the platform was very crowded, there were incessant announcements about bevy of trains, an engine hooted every now and then, people & noise permeated every corner, and chaos was laughing his head off admiring his handiwork. I caught hold of a porter, and dashed off to platform 3, coach S6, berth number 41. Stomping on some foots, hitting some people with my bags, I made my way to the center of the coach to realize that all the seats in that sub-section – from 41 to 48 had already been occupied. A girl was sitting at 41 beside the window enjoying the late evening breeze, the summer heat had just started dissipating.
“Excuse me, you are in my seat.”
“I don’t think so“, came back a rude reply.
The crowd had added the hay, the fodder, the dry twigs, and for good measure some petrol too; this was the spark that I not needed at this time… I controlled my anger somehow, “I am sure this is my seat, can I at least see your ticket?”
“I think I can read just fine, and here it says S6 41 Lower Berth“, she replied whipping out her ticket and reading to me the details.
The spark did not get the breeze it needed last time, this time it did catch fire, “I think you have super vision, otherwise how would you have been able to read exact details of my ticket… Now if you do not mind, move your luggage and yourself off my seat before I have to do it myself“.
There was seething rage in her eyes, and although I am generally very calm and had it been any other time I would have avoided any such confrontation but I was too frustrated to be calm, “Are you threatening me? And is this the way to talk to a lady?“, came back her reply.
The done-to-death lady routine rears up its head again but I am ready this time, “Tell me one thing, this ‘being a lady’ cliche is only used when you are in the wrong and losing, or you use it always?“, I reply with a wry smile.
Taken aback by this sudden change in the topic of our “friendly” conversation she stammers, hesitates, and blurts, “Nn No… What?”
“Oh, nothing. I just wanted to establish that we are on equal terms here before I take your luggage and throw it out, otherwise people here would throw me out if you say a word to them“, mentally I patted myself on the back for averting any chance of my ass being kicked, and throwing a spanner in the girl’s thought process.
“We are on equal terms, I won’t say anything to the people around, anyway I can handle $@#%& people like you“, she replied; the special characters being so special that their significance would have lessened immensely had I tried to convey the exact literal meaning.
Whoa! This was the first time I encountered someone from Venus who could speak such unadulterated Hindi, and I have to admit it was impressive. But this was no time to dwell on the expansive vocabulary the girl possessed, this was time for action.
As I was stepping forward to take her luggage out, a middle-aged uncle entered the fray, “Excuse me, I could not help but overhear you but seat number 41 belongs to me“, saying this he showed me his ticket which indeed proclaimed S6-41. Soon we were checking the girl’s ticket, and I could not help but grin when the other guy said, “Ma’am your train left 4 hours back, this train number is 8031, the one you were supposed to be on was 8301“. The grin soon turned to grimace when the guy told me, “And your train left yesterday, you did not check the date on the ticket properly“.
Shortly the girl and I found ourselves on platform 3, with our luggage scattered around us, and as the last coach in the train chugged by, instead of being pissed I began to see the humour in our unfortunate situation. A smile slowly crept up on my face, I turned around to look for my luggage and noticed a similar amused smile on the girl’s face too. She caught my eye, and we both burst out laughing.
It took a while for the laughter to abate, and although a chuckle kept popping up now and then, over a cup of tea we realized that our destinations were consecutive stations and it would make much more sense to join forces. The subsequent journey of 18 hours souldered a bond that with time has only gone stronger.
Yes, I feel I owe it to Destiny.