Mummy, Papa, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and Tommy.. She was busy hugging everyone, one by one, when the train began to move.
Tommy, not his real name, politely alerted the farewell party with his barking.
Hello, the train is moving!!
The girl hurried, ran for a few steps and managed to board the bogey. She was about 22, and had boarded the same train for New Delhi where I was sitting next to an empty seat, near the window.
She pulled her luggage into my compartment and checked for her seat. The empty seat next to mine was hers. She arranged her belongings on the berth above and looked for something inside her hand bag. Train seats are thus arranged that the passengers sitting opposite to each other can get into a conversation. Conversation shortens a journey!
“Where are you going?” the girl asked me as she sat down.
“Delhi,” I replied.
“Me too.” “For job?”
“No, I am studying.”
II nd year, BA at Lady Shri Ram college. The name of her pet was Jimbu. Her father is a defence personnel posted in Assam but actually they were from Punjab. Assam, known for its brand of tea, has a section of youth who has taken up arms demanding a revolution.
I looked stupid. I didn’t have the faintest idea about insurgency in my state. Her father had shot insurgents and rebels in the jungles. Thank You! I was not interested in military operations. I carry a walkman, not a gun. Do I look like a rebel?
“Music?” I asked.
“Yes, I like music.”
Taste varies. It is difficult. You are a die hard fan of metal & every other song sounds dead with lack of energy. Can people be so boring. I gave her my walkman with my favourite cassette inside. Play.
“Oh! This is metal.. Like you are listening to the train wheels through the earphones. Ha ha ha!”
Nice! A great comparison! She carried her own music too. But now I wanted to know her name.
“Wwhat.. can I call you as?”
“Oh! Call me Sonali. Sonali Singh. And you are?”
Sonali was a pretty girl. Kept her hair short because she says it was easier to manage that way in a hostel but earlier her hair was longer. Her lustrous eyes, when they looked at me during conversations, made me skip a heart beat.
Some passengers snored loudly at 10 a.m. Motion made people drowsy. Some were chatting. We listened to our own music and had lunch on our laps. In the evening, we chat again.
“So you are more into course materials?” I asked.
“No, how do you know?”
“A guess! I do not like course materials either, that’s why I read other books which has nothing to do with my course,” I replied as I took out a small book by a popular writer.
“Oh! You like reading fat books? Actually, by the time I reach the middle of a fat book, I forget what I had been reading.. I have read only a few such books.. most of them were short story collections.”
We slept on our berths at night.
Next day. The train neared its destination making me blue & nostalgic. Alighting after a long journey, the act itself was like detaching yourself from the umbilical cord which joins you with your mother. I missed home & everyone at home.
I helped Sonali with her luggage. I carried her small bag of snacks, the contents of which we had shared on our journey & reached the taxi stand. We bade farewell to each other.
I took an auto rickshaw to the place where I stayed with my friends. The vehicle moved out of the station to the road, speeding along with the traffic of the city, halting at traffic lights, waiting for side and moving till I reached my hostel.
It was only a matter of time when I would forget about Sonali, the train journey or the loudly snoring passengers at night. It was routine year after year, once or twice each year. These memories receded to the pages of my diary soon.