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There was quite a chill in the air that morning. Five days had already gone by since the sun showered its warm ray on the numbed face. It was too cold to leave the bed even for performing one’s ablutions. Even a slight thought of journey in this unfavorable season and that too by train comes up like an electric shock to the commoners. All were shivering with feverish cold. However, sometimes circumstances force us to journey even if we don’t want to.

Vedanta was such a man from Kolkata who had to undertake the challenging journey to Delhi. He was in the habit of leaving no stone unturned for the sake of building his image. He was too much of confident of himself, his so called carefulness, bravery and consciousness in all the activities whatever. Whenever he heard of any pick pocketing, theft and snatching and lifting in the buses and trains, he couldn’t help laughing at the carelessness of the people concerned. Like a true preacher he would teach them,“ Why are you so negligent of your belongings when you are travelling in the train or buses?” “You should always be all alert; as anything may happen, particularly when you are travelling by train or bus, don’t even blink your eyes. Once your attention is diverted, you will remain repenting forever and your belongings are gone.”

At this point of time he considered himself a great careful person of the world. Sometimes he would have a quarrel with his wife when she preached him to hide some money in his upper pocket, some inner, some in the lower, and some in the back and some front pocket, some in the bag, some in the books. However, all the time he would emerge victorious in diffusing her awkward plan and had his own way happily, as he was more intelligent and smart than her but only in his own eyes.

Nevertheless, the sweet illusion of his of being smarter was no longer there with him. One day that he cannot forget throughout his life opened up his eyes to the hard reality of the world full of the crooks in various forms. For one’s own smartness is not enough to travel safe in life; he/she is expected to be more watchful too all the time, as the world is full of more intelligent and smarter crooks than the good and average ones like him. At every step of life we have to be ready to encounter them in some way or the other.
 
Everything appeared engulfed in smog as far as he could see outside though the window of the train moving fast ahead tearing the cold silence of the dead night. Meanwhile, to escape from the cold thought he darted his attention to the purpose he was heading towards the capital of India. Moreover, he was feeling bored sitting alone also. He was so lost that he allowed himself to roam in the past of his college and university days, friends and better than the best teachers, who impressed, influenced, inspired and motivated him to a considerable extent.

One of such men of learning was the person with appeasing personality who later became his father-in-law in his personal life. It was very unfortunate for this sexagenarian that the day he retired from the teaching service was advised for proper diagnosis of his kidney problem which recently raised its head sending the shock wave to the near and dear ones to him not at the place where he was living but somewhere else in a better and reputed hospital. Wherever the Time wanted him to go, he visited. He tried his luck in Vellore hospital and from there he went to AIMS, Delhi. In the long run he was admitted to Gangaram Hospital, Delhi. It was a major operation performed on him resulting into the removal of one of the kidneys badly infected. As a part of emotional succor all the relatives were supposed to be there by his bed that day of the operation by hook or by crook.

Following others’ footprints he too posed himself no less than any of the relatives parrying off the fact that in fact, he was not so affluent and well off as they were in every way. Thinking that he was also earning well, he also decided to give a helping hand with whatever he had at that point of time. He took out heavy amount of money from his wife’s bank Account and got it credited to his as he had the ATM card. As planned, he was to take the money out in Delhi and hand it over to the family for the purpose concerned.

When bad times befall, it is the bad train that gives us shelter in its cosy compartment without any distinction between the poor and the rich, the good and the bad. He too had to take the help such a bad – rather the worst train to reach Delhi. Angrily hailed as very notorious this train halted almost all the halts as if they are big stations. Although it has a stormy name so that no passenger can avoid its existence, it is irony that keeps hovering around station to station, halt to halt at its snail sail/pace.

He boarded the train and found five to six persons sitting on his berth. They were in fact local passengers returning from respective office. He dared not tell them anything but they guessed right that he was the owner of the ‘seat’ and out of modesty they let him sit on his berth. As long as he was standing between the berths of either side, they were mocking at the people with reservation tickets. During that time he was trying to pose as a local passenger. Besides, some students were also sitting and discussing politics of India. It was almost 9.30 PM Some persons had already unfolded their berths and began lying to sleep. He too did so. He had all his money along with his ATM Cards in upper pocket of his shirt he was in. He took them out and wrapped and tied them with the blue strip of his Identity Card and covered it with his sweeter all round and put it under his head. Putting his fingers crossed he went into the long and deep slumber as he was too exhausted and retarded. However, at the intervals of 20.30 minutes he would wake up to see his belongings under lower berth safe and sound. For some time being, in fact he forgot the existence of the “wealth “under his head. Here it needs to be pointed out that before sleeping he had thought of putting the money into the bag and the bag under his head at night but since he had a pair of new shoes, he wanted the bag to protect his new white shoes from the stealing eyes by covering them.

The train was about to touch on Allahabad Station when he woke up startled by the noise of the rowdy passengers. While sleeping he thought to himself the passengers might be pushing in and out at the congested door of the compartment. All on a Sudden he felt that something was missing under his head. He finally got up this time really startled only to find his sweeter - cum - whatever-money-he- had gone forever. He searched all around like anything sometimes under the berth and sometimes in the cracks of the berth but of no use. He was physically and mentally exhausted by constant and intensive search for his wealth. At last he made himself realize that the thing he was looking for was in fact gone; someone needier than him might have lifted it for their own purpose.

Seeing his sad plight he was reminded of the condition and statement of the poor peasant who lost the piece of his bread in the short story of Leo Tolstoy. Somehow or the other he was able to comfort myself with the philosophical thought and the lesson Tolstoy taught to the poor fellow like him. He had never thought that he would ever lose any of his belongings in his life. Previously he was not aware of the crooked way of the world but now he realized that anything right or wrong, good or bad, big and small might happen at any time. For that one has to be prepared beforehand for any untoward event. The money he was carrying with him for a little bit of cooperation of the patient would now be utilized by someone else who must be thanking him in an indirect way from the bottom of his heart. What an irony that the people who were earlier talking to him with great interest, when they came to know of the theft , stopped talking to and looking at his weeping face as they were afraid he would ask for money.

He had no money on him; whatever he had was lost. Counting some coins left in his different pockets of shirt and trousers he found that he had only Rs 9/- left. One kind man he had never seen or known before came forward to help him with money even before he could open his mouth for some financial help. In the beginning he pretended not taking it but he had no option left but to take it. He passed Rs 200/- on towards him as a philanthropic deed. When asked about his name and whereabouts, he was some Tiwari from UP. He expressed his thankfulness and obligation to him for the succor he provided him in such a bad distress. This money now came up as oxygen for a dying and sinking heart. Moreover, he had remains of some stale snacks and 3 bananas left fortunately in the bag.

Time moved on and on and he was having a glance over the compartmental activities. Seeing some people eating something or the other he too started feeling hungry, hence decided to finish up the bananas he had. The bananas also failed to help his stubborn hunger to come down. As he spilled it up it was all rotten from within. Not a single part of it was edible. His hunger remained unsatisfied.

Meanwhile, a “guava seller” was crying at the top his hoarse voice, “10 rupaye ka panch, 10 rupaye ka panch”. He wanted to but thinking that he had only Rs. 9 left with him and that he would have to reach Delhi, he had to get back as it would help him at the time of hiring taxi to reach the hospital. Somehow or the other he persuaded himself to turn to something else rather than longing for the “sour” guava. All those sitting by his sides and next to him were using their mouths with something sweet, sour or salted things. On the other hand, he, like a small child tempted, was looking at their glowing faces and moving jaws. Whenever he was caught staring at them, he began taking two-three gradients of pan paraag which he had to kill the boredom in the train from time to time to show that he was also feeding himself. The deplorable condition he was entangled into over there can only be felt by those who have had such a bitter experience mixed with shocks and agony. Repenting over his careless act, he wished he had abided by what his better half had suggested! He had kept rupees in various pockets of his shirt and trousers and books etc. Had he acted on her advice, he would not have found himself in such a deplorable condition!

Hunger again and again knocked at the door of his stomach but the inner consciences of his succeeded in not letting it in and affect him in any way. In order to forget the dancing pain of his hunger he thought of writing and giving a literary shape to the feeling and experience making experiments inside him. He kept writing and writing and was lost in it to such an extent that he failed to believe that the train had already arrived on the platform of his destination. Instead of feeling happy his heart started beating against the inner wall of his chest because he had lost his ticket too.    


Stories
07/25/2010
More by :  Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar
Views: 1074               
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Solitude and other poems by Rajender Krishan
 



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