Train journeys are always nostalgic. They remind me of the time I traveled from Secunderabad to Warangal during my Bachelors at Osmania University. I was always excited to go home. I used to buy my monthly share of magazines and boarded the train. Sitting by the window was a privilege. Most of the times I used to sit close to some bulky frame aunty and butt wars used to take place to conquer the narrow space. A constant chatter could be heard all along the journey, someone talked to somebody else about politics, movies or personal problems. It was surprising how freely people opened up to strangers, befriended them over the course of two hours and sought their advice. Little kids always cried. Their shrill voice rose over the din of the compartment. Intermittently, I used to raise my head from the book and see the green canopy outside the window, the flashing away telegraph posts and listen to the train horn and the rhythmic sound made by the metallic wheels on the track. I used to see one, two, three-storied red, blue, pink, brown concrete houses and the people residing in those houses used to look out through the windows with cold stares. We were moving away taking along with us a piece of their personal space. Little girls and boys who played close to the houses had a positive disposition. They waved their hands to make a two-second span friends.
This journey, unlike all my other ones was a special one, because this is the last journey as a Ms., as a single woman. The train stopped at Secunderabad station. I was sitting in an AC coach. I looked outside my window which was both sound proofed and wind proofed. I saw a group of college students huddled together along with their bags and sharing a newspaper. I saw a little girl with curly hair skipping along with her grandmother and the curls rippled away. I saw a mother putting an earring in her daughter’s ears, and she was crying. Her cries hit my window and became noiseless. I perused the platform within my view but there was no sight of him. I was looking out for that distinguishable face in a hundred other indistinguishable ones, made special because of the relationship we will share.
I heard a familiar, ‘hello’ and saw him in my compartment. I was excited to see him after a gap of five days, which passed away like five eons. Every moment that I missed him, brought with it overbearing fleeting memories of him. Those memories danced around me, tantalizingly, always escaping my reach. A flood of emotions materialized in the present moment, stealing away the words from my mouth and silence ruled.
We went to a place away from the prying eyes which tried to figure out our relationship. I sat close to him, close enough to see him, far enough to touch him. I asked him, When did you wake up?’. He replied, ‘At 3:45 AM’, I ask him, ‘Why?’. He replied, ‘You see the power went off. So I had to wake up. I had to pick up grandma and grandpa at the station, so I came here early. On top of it, their train was late so I had to wait in the station. I was supposed to arrive at 5 AM’.
I look down onto the tracks through the window. A kid’s red colored tooth-brush lay on the tracks. I wondered if the kid threw it willfully to trouble the mother. My thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of his phone. He picks up and says,
‘Where are you?’
‘How do I know why the train was late?’
‘Maybe it was all the luggage that you put in it that has slowed it down’
‘Call me when you reach’
He looks at me and we both smile. He says,’ What else?’ The phone answers to his question.
He picks up and says, ‘I am here in the train with your daughter-in-law’
‘Ok. I will talk to you later’
‘Yes, we will talk later’
He puts the phone down. He takes my hand into his and looks at my watch.
I say, ‘It is fast by five minutes’. He says, ‘What is the point running ahead of time when you know that you doing that?’ I smile. The clock ticks away and grabs the precious seconds and minutes with vicious pleasure. I tell him, ‘You should start’. He says, ‘Grandma and grandpa’s train has not come yet. I will leave after your train moves from the platform.
I look at a young woman who wore a pink colored top and pale blue jeans, reading a paper and also stealing glances in our direction. He looked at her too and said, ‘She is reading the paper as though she is preparing for an exam.’
We looked at each other. He says, ‘I am excited for tomorrow. I reply, ‘Me too’
‘I will see you in a semi-bride outfit tomorrow for the engagement’
‘Yes, in a traditional dress’
My train has’nt started yet. We were late by ten minutes. He said, ‘My will power has stopped the train’.
I ask him, ‘Will we meet today?’
He says, ‘What plans do we have for today?’
‘I have to go to a beauty parlor.’
‘In the afternoon.’
‘We will meet in the evening. We will steal some time and go around’
‘In Warangal? There will be nothing much to do’
‘Yes. We will figure something out’
I got onto the train and waved him a goodbye. He looks at me longingly. I tell him, ‘I love you’. All the words that remained inside me during the conversation, I wanted to truly say them. He smiles and leaves. I go to my seat.
I kept on looking through the train window even after he left. The group of boys used the newspaper to sit on the platform and a few of them opened their laptops. I resumed reading Ruskin Bond’s, ‘Night Train at Deoli and other stories’. My fiance’s will power was so strong that the train got delayed by an hour.