The delayed train

Once it so happened in 1989 that my mother was coming to Bombay after many years after she had settled in our home town in Thrissur. She was coming by train and in those days it was the Kanyakumari Jayanthi Janatha train that used to ferry people from Kerala to Mumbai. It was a good 36 hour journey. Thanks to the Konkan railway this journey has been cut down to 26 or even less.

The train was to reach Victoria Terminus later renamed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) by 6 am and I was late to reach the station to receive her. Upon arrival, I came to know the train had diverted from its route and would take one more day due to a goods train derailment. In those days, there was no way you could communicate. So I came back the next day at around 9:30 am to the station again. At the station, I came to know that the train was reaching Kalyan and would take one more hour to reach. I had my brother in law in tow this time with me to receive her. The train had a halt at Dadar station before it would slowly wind it’s way into CST Main station.

I was thinking of how my mother would be feeling. Here she was stepping into Mumbai after 5 long years and would be wondering if we would be there at the station to receive her. Moreover she like other passengers in the train would be really tired since the journey was now into its 50th hour. It was then a thought struck my mind. What if I catch up with her and the train at Dadar station during its 2 minute halt there. I knew her compartment and it would take maybe one minute maximum of running around to locate hers. In those days and even now on most express trains, compartments or bogies are not connected internally. In another 30 to 40 minutes, the train would reach Dadar station and without wasting a minute, I told my brother to stay put at CST while I would take a chance to catch the train at Dadar. I quickly booked a ticket and caught a train from the Central railway platform and fancied my chances.

Within 25 mins or so, I got down at Dadar and waited for the Express train which would arrive at another platform in a couple of minutes. As you know the express trains take their sweet time while stopping at a station and therefore by the time it had stopped, I was able to locate the compartment. Dashing inside after the few passengers had got down, I started my search for her at the seats and finally I found her. When she looked up and saw me, I could sense the surprise and wonder in her eyes to see me. How come? was what came up to her lips first. I sat down and reassured her that everything was fine and we would coast together to CST. I had taken only a one way ticket to Dadar. The return journey till the CST platform was a free ride. We caught up with my brother in law waiting at the far end of the station and as we walked towards him, the ticket checker asked us to show our tickets. She showed her ticket and was worried what I would do now. I put my hands into my pocket and fished out my platform ticket which I had purchased at CST an hour ago in my initial plan to receive her…

I thought of posting this just to reiterate that whenever good thoughts come to you to help someone in distress, do not hesitate to take the risk. You would be glad you took it to come out winning at The End.

Drowned

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You have been warned : Do not go further, there is danger ahead.

The still waters beckoned me as my little footprints made their imprints upon the hot dry sand from the now setting Sun which was once at its zenith only a few hours ago. As the cool waves lapped at my feet tickling me, needless to say,  they were now beckoning to get in more of my self into the blue expanse lit only by a distant horizon and a few stars making their appearance.

I could feel the embrace of the heavy stillness around my waist pushing me ever so slightly, in all directions, four directions I had been taught in school. I never had experienced so much soothing, as if somebody had applied the healing balm all over me. The timid mind had made its plunge into the deep even before, though the body ever so careful made steps with my tiny legs that had now started to complain to me that the water though helping it to hold on was also pushing the weight of my fear into the quick sands that were quickly forming. But as egged on, as I used to walk with parents, I persisted to walk ahead into the inviting spectacle.

When the plush waves pushed with me playfully, I tried to balance with my hands trying to use them as paddles, oars or fins, oh I could see my vocabulary was slowly failing me. The shadow of fear that had appeared quite some time ago in my messy head was now standing next to me, not helping me, but standing still, waiting for me as my mother did, to take care of my ablutions.

I looked out to the beach, how far was I away from the people walking upon it, the playful children creative as they could get with the sand. I could see some navigating the now invisible thread of their playfully wielded kites and the hawkers trying their best to get in a morsel or two of the food in their cans into the mouths of the visitors. Shout I did as as I was slowly drifting away, the sea taking  with it, poor me, as it retreated for the evening but all I could manage was a croak. Was it because of the salt that had gotten into me or had  I become an amphibian after settling in this water for some quite some time. My skin needed to breathe, my pale self not helping,  the fish scurrying desperately getting away from a stranger who never knew or learned to swim like them. There was no log of wood for me to hold on, nor one to write my last wishes for the dear people whom I left back on the beach.

Had they noticed my absence, the dusk fast giving away to darkness, my head and frail hands that bobbed up once in a while, was it visible to them, to anyone who gazed at the deep sea or the arc of the horizon, I knew not. The body got heavier by the minute and whatever air in me gave way to the water now gushing in with a pinch of salt. Water, I was taught was life giving, but my small body could never handle too much of it. The ocean was now feeding me what it knew best, to intruders who had never understood how to step into it. Oh dear mother,  if only I had listened to you and had not wandered off into the deep water when you were not looking. I sent you on an errand so that you could not see me running into the vast expanse of bluish water which had always enchanted me, a place of wonder where a lot of my imaginative characters dwelt.

I know the lunch with the wonderful curry you fed with your hands seems to be, my last feed of the day as I now rest myself on the floor of good old nature, bidding bye to all my worries, my unanswered questions and rest now. My tired body has sunk, buried by a thin layer of sparkling sand, a blanket against the increasing cold of the heavy rumble above me. How I, fervently wish, I might be a floating log tomorrow for my loved ones to reclaim and rebury along with their fond memories of me…

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