“One ticket to Mumbai!! Please one Ticket to Mumbai!!”, I was shouting with all my strength but the person sitting at the counter could barely hear it. “Train will come after 5 hours, take the change”, Shouted the man.
I tried hard but couldn’t count the money he returned. “I have to sleep, I have to sleep”, I kept telling myself to bring some hopes to my reddish eyes. I reached the platform only to confirm the readings from the census guys. It was all people and more people around. I rushed to an empty platform in order to catch up on some sleep. Oh!! It feels great after you lay your back on the floor after a tiring two days of bad luck.
It all started with a happy good-bye.
“Take care Charlie, don’t take food from pantry”, I was brimming with excitement. My friend was going home and we were at station. Destiny brought us to the city for some research paper presentations. “You too take care, write me as soon as you reach home”, said Charlie shouting at the top of his throat. Train whistled the departure and I was standing alone on the station thinking what will I do in next 24 hours. I was going home after one whole year. Thoughts were flowing in my heart. The night was cold but memories of home hardly gave me time to worry about falling mercury. I will run on the beaches again, will play cricket with friends. Evening walks with dad was something I really missed here in Bangalore. One more thing that was not here was my mom. I wanted to go home sooner. Oh! This moon is not moving faster. Emptiness was filling my heart, even more when I found myself alone on the platform. Whole night I spent dreaming about my home and waiting for tea stall to open. After morning tea, I went to take shower in waiting room. Indian Railway is trying hard to keep the bathrooms clean.
Railway station is not a good idea to spend you day specially if the sun is shining on the top with all his aggression. I somehow kept myself busy with my nose poked into weekly magazines and overhearing the conversations of the people sitting nearby. Someone was worried about the temperature in Delhi, while few were planning to bribe some local babus to get license for their shops. One couple was planning to go spend their honeymoon in Kashmir. After all the chit-chats I tried to move out towards city to have a walk. The city is not bad after all. They have air-conditioned buses, Auto-rickshaw have digital meters, even ladies work in bus-stations. Things doesn’t move as fast as its in Mumbai but still people here are light-hearted.
Sun was going behind the horizon and the moon was ready to rule the sky. I came to platform to board my train. The train was coming on the platform and people were running here and there to catch their bogies. I looked at the plate hung on the bogies. Oh My God!! This is actually the train to Mumbai, my heart started beating faster. I can’t wait any longer to board this train. I wanted to rush into it like a hurricane, I was getting restless. I can’t believe that I was finally going home. Yuppie!! Came the sound from my heart when the guard showed the green lantern.
I reached my seat to have my dinner. I was feeling hungry after rambling from place to place in Bangalore. We were travelling for past one hour and everyone was planning to sleep when came the fate less event. A person in black coat came near to me and asked me to show him my ticket. I checked my pockets where I slipped my tickets earlier before boarding the train. No!! this is not possible, I can’t believe it’s happening. I lost my tickets. I checked again and again to deny this fact but yes I had lost my tickets. I humbling asked the man in black coat to give me a duplicate ticket. Even after my insistent plea and my documents he was not convinced that I was the same person who name was written on the seat booking chart he was holding. He handed me to police constable to finally hand me over to railway police at next station. “Am I going to jail?”, this questions sounded in my mind. “Really, Jail?”, my conscience was trying to frighten me. I asked police man to tell me the options I have. He asked me to leave the compartment and board the general boogie and then take a ticket at any station possible. I was convinced with his plans after he told me the intentions of the ticket conductor. “Really, he wants me to bribe him?”, I responded to him when he whispered into my ears. “That is the only way out”, said the man confidently. “But Rs 1000 is all what I have, what will I do after reaching station? How will I reach my home?”, I questioned the old man. Suddenly the train stopped. They asked me to leave the train and board the general boogie. I rushed towards to the end of the train only to find that general boogie was already full to its brim. What should I do, I have never been in this position before? The big monster again started to move leaving me alone. I tried to reach to other bogies but it was too late. It was gone!!
I was standing on the track, in the middle of the night. Even the moon was not visible. Clouds were taking the light away from the night. It was dark, silent, and I was clueless about my location. I didn’t want to stop there and wait for the morning so I strolled along the tracks to reach somewhere. Finally I could see one more signal and some lights at some distance. It was a small station. I ran towards it in hope of getting something which can take me to my home. The station was empty and a person was sleeping in a small room. He was the station master. I asked him a way to reach Mumbai. I told him my story and asked him if he can ask some train to stop here and take me to some big station, so I can take another train to Mumbai. “This is a satellite station my child, no train stops here, to reach Mumbai go back to Bangalore”, said the station guardian. “Back to Bangalore?, but how”, I said in despair. Suddenly he pointed towards a man who was walking across the track. “Go with him, he will take you to the highway, hey Stop!! Stop!!”, shouted station master with all his strength. I ran towards the person, he was small and dark, but looked full of energy. I told him my sweet story and asked for his help in finding way to the highway. He was completely shocked at my tragedy and took me to the highway.
It was mid night when we reached there. The clouds were rushing in and it was getting colder and colder. Rain was the last thing I expected from God. Winds were gaining speed and it started pouring more and more water on us. The road was empty and no vehicle crossed that junction for another one hour. I was doubting at their use of word “Highway”. “You can sleep if you want to, I will take care of your stuff”, that person asked me taking hold of my bag. “Oh!! No problem, I am not worried about my bag, I have nothing in it to worry about”, I said with my barely opened eyes. I don’t remember what time I slept. “Wake up!! Wake up!!, this will go to Bangalore, Hurry,” someone said pulling my hands towards the bus. “Where are we, why are we going to a bus?”, I said still strolling in my dreams. “Are you ok? Can you reach Bangalore?”, that person asked me demanding an answer. “Ok! I will come with you, but you have to pay for my fare, even return fare”, and we both took that bus. It was coming all the way from Hyderabad and everyone looked towards us as if they just saw some naxalite. Finally we got a seat to stand at the gate. I completely agree with the views of our Great Prime Minister Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi on population control. With sleep in my eyes I finally reached Bangalore and I was completely unaware of the presence of the person who came all the way from that forest to Bangalore to drop me safely. Can someone do this for any stranger. May be people are still human. We both then went to take some breakfast. He was a mechanic and was going to home when I caught at tracks. He must return soon else his family will start a police search for him. I gave him his return tickets and food parcel for his journey. “I will miss you buddy, I will surely come back to meet you someday”, I promised to a pure soul who rescued me from the darkness of the forest. I came back to station to lodge a complaint against the Ticket conductor for dropping me on the tracks in the middle of the night. I told my story to the station master and he was convinced enough to take some strict action against the ticket conductor. “Go and get a ticket for Mumbai, train will come back at the noon”, directed station master politely.
“Mumbai Express, Mumbai Express”, everyone was shouting on platform 1. Finally my train had arrived, finally I was going to Mumbai. I checked my tickets again and again and kept it deep in my bag. I wanted to reach home, sooner than I can.
Categories: Short Story