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|by Arya Bhushan|
It was the middle of winter and it was bitterly cold. One such night, I had to travel from New Delhi to Amritsar. I boarded the Frontier Mail ' a relatively fast, and prestigious train in India. I was the lone passenger in my compartment. To provide added safety, passengers were strongly advised to securely latch all windows and doors to prevent any unauthorized entry during the night.
As I was settling into my compartment, I noticed that one of the window latches would not lock. The train was about to depart and there wasn't enough time to call maintenance and get the latch fixed. As delaying the train did not seem prudent, I thought it best to leave the matter to chance, and hope for the best. I also argued to myself that after all, out of the four windows in my compartment, three were securely latched and only one was not. I must also have faith in God, which in this case was only for 25% of the windows. Undoubtedly, there was the added thought, that with so many windows on the long train, the probability of some one trying to open this particular window was extremely low. With these comforting thoughts, I set my worries aside and went to sleep.
Several hours passed. All of a sudden, my deep slumber was interrupted by a persistent noise. Completely shaken up, I noticed some one trying to open the window of my compartment. It was all the more unnerving to find it to be the same window, which would not latch!
"Oh God! Is this the price, I have to pay for my having faith in you? I had put only 25% faith; and there too I have been let down. This is outright cheating. Is it fair? That was not expected of you, God."
My thoughts were racing. Suddenly, a recent news item flashed, where a murder in a lonely compartment of a train had been described. It stated that some armed bandits got into the moving train, broke open the compartment, entered it, and decamped with all the belongings of the old couple after killing them.
"How foolish of me to put so much faith in God? Is it going to be my end? Is this going to be the last night for me? Were those astrologers, who predicted a long life for me, all liars?" Such thoughts continued in my head.
I had hardly any time to collect my wits, when I saw the outer metal window lift up and a dark human silhouette was seen against the window glass, which was the only piece of protection between that formidable figure and myself. The train was running at full speed. In the murky darkness of that night, every thing looked desolate and forlorn. To witness a ghostly figure at dead of night, in that setting was scary indeed. The person appeared to me as 'Death' personified. I was almost certain that he was the 'Messenger of Death', or else how could a human being board a moving train at that deadly hour and open the very window which I had not bothered to get fixed, mistakenly depending on an imaginary God.
Now the next move of this man, sure enough, would be to break open the window glass and enter the compartment. What was I to do then? Should I raise an alarm or pull the emergency chain? Raising an alarm would be futile. Who would hear my shouts in the roaring noise of the train? Further, if I tried to move to reach the emergency chain, this wretch might attack me. I wondered if the scoundrel possessed a dagger or a gun? Whatever. "Oh God, having full faith in you, I did not care to keep even a blunt pocket knife for my protection."
Well! There appeared to be no way out now. Had I known this was to happen, I would, never, have undertaken this journey. Headlines of the next day's newspaper flashed before my eyes '
"Oh no! Please God, don't do this to me. My one and only wife will become a widow. She has been so nice to me. We did quarrel sometimes but that does not mean we should lose each other. I would not like to lose her. And so wouldn't she. Where can she find such a good husband? My children will become orphans. Please spare me this time. I assure you that, hereafter, I will not trust you even 25%." I was praying, without knowing what I was saying.
"Clang!" There was a loud noise of metal hitting something, and the window glass shattered into smithereens. Even that frail barrier, between us, was not there any longer. Finding no chance of escape, I shouted at the top of my voice, "Stop! I will just open." With these words, I jumped out of my bed and opened the door with trembling hands. A huge gigantic man appeared. With all the fear inside me, but making a show of apparent courage, I asked, "Who are you and what do you want?"
"Oh! It is so-so ka-ka-cold. I a-am da-da-drunk. I was ta-ta-told that the ta-ta-train goes to my ha-ha-home ta-town. So-so I go-got in. I ba-broke o-open the-the wi-window. I a-am so-so-sorry."
He looked to be a crook all right but he was unarmed. Perhaps, the firearm or the dagger 'or whatever, was with him, slipped out of his hand while breaking the window. It was apparent that he was very drunk. I, therefore, did not feel like arguing with him or pushing him out of the train, which I originally intended to, in case there was danger. I allowed him to sit in one corner and he soon started snoring. But I could not sleep as I did not know what mischief he may be up to. I was all along afraid that he might attack me and throw me out of the train, as soon as I was off my guard.
I kept wide-awake until the train reached the next stop, and there I handed him over to the Police. Later, I learnt that he was a notorious dacoit, involved in several murders and holdups in trains. The Police were after him. It was a matter of chance, or that of my good luck, that he had gone to a party and became highly intoxicated, and his gun had slipped out of his hands.
Or was it a result of my prayers? Who knows? Thank God a million million times for answering my prayers and saving my life. Still, I am in a dilemma as to how much trust I should place in God's grace? What would you do?
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