“Bokaro Express is running late by one and a half hours.” I heard the announcement.
Though the station is big, there are not many sitting facilities on the platform. It is delicate – 1 don't feel like setting on my ‘holdall’. The place I want to reach takes only an hour by train. But, I have to stand like this for one hour. I heaved a long sigh.
The train came at last. For some reason that day went near a general third-class coach. Who can stop what's destined to happen!
It was a coach set apart for the military but considering my clothing and age none stopped me to board.
Had any one stopped me, things, perhaps would have been different. The compartment has ten military staff only but they spread their bichona on seats. I hesitated for a while and made place for myself fold bichona a little. A soldier lifted my travel bag on to his berth. Having seated, I breathed happily and began looking through the window. Looked at another seat but suddenly shifted my look since what a saw happened to be a lady. The young woman is looking at me and so I turned my attention.
Right opposite my sent there is a Marwari woman quite old. By her side sat a little girl of five or may be a little younger.
“Daddy has come, you shift a little,” said the young woman, I saw earlier. But the kid appeared to be sickly and tried to see but could not any more. The man who came there shifted the little one a little and sat down.
For some reason I begun looking at the kid again and again.
Her legs looked very thin and hands are attached with leaf like palms. In English we say they are emaciated. All her life went into eyes and the little one is looking at me. I remember even my little one who breathed his last at four. I looked at the young woman again and found her looking at me. She had sparkling eyes and her demeanour attracted me. I saw a mangal sootr. (marriage string on her neck)
There is little kid in her lap, goad. The little kid and the enunciated girl must be sister and brother.
I looked at the young woman's toes – the toes had silver rings.
A villager along with her grandson aged five got into the compartment and she sat on the floor. Behind her come another woman clad in a blue sari. A ticket collector came in and the old woman showed the blue sari. The newly married woman was looking at the blue sari.
“Oh! What can I do? I gave a ten rupee note he gave me a ticket but did not give the child and the other woman. When asked him he is saying he would not give? The man would punish us”
In the goad of the married woman the little without the strength even to cry is marking feeble noises. I could see the enlarged liver. Unless treated carefully and urgently he would die.
She started talking to the young military man her husband. The newlyweds began talking to one another in whispers.
The little kid was looking at its father pitifully. I felt like my heart throbbing. What could be the relationship between the little kid in her goad and the newly wed man?
She took at a piece of paper from her blouse and the young man took it and the two broke into laughter: they are in their own world.
The health condition of the little kid has been agitating me. How do the your newly married ones understand the kid's condition? Who am I to tell them anything? What if she pouts and questions me ‘who are you to ask?
The ticket collector must have cheated the old woman. But how about little kid.
The situation is clear. Already having two children, the military man must have married a second time. The young bride is jubilant in her new-found joy of having been married.
I took my bag and took out a pad and wrote two sentences. Vijayanagaram station is reached. I put my pen in my pocket and got down.
My daughter at home usually looks to see what I brought for her.
She read out what I wrote but I could not brave giving the note to the military man.
“Life is valuable, more valuable, than anything else. Save the lives of your children taking them to the doctor immediately.”
Stories and truth are different. I could not be bold enough to give this to the young soldier.
I spoke to myself:
Then, why did I write this at all? My profession calls for kindness and pity. Then why did I not do what I wanted to do?
This is a problem. Though I wanted to do, having the ability to do good sometimes is not there.
I come across things like this – That is the truth that bothers me long.
But children, those little children, you too know the ending.
Original in Telegu, published in 1979