When we are younger, we are open to new ideas and information, but as we grow older we tend to believe what’s already fed in our head. We start living in a small box of perceptions.
But I think they say it right when they say that travelling alone really opens your mind and widens the horizons of your thoughts.
I was also living in a small box of perceptions until that fortunate day when I had to travel alone from Delhi to Patna.
Me – Hello
Mom – (silence)
Me – Maa, what happened? Everything’s okay?
Mom – Ya, actually your grandma’s not well.
Me – Oh! What’s wrong?
Mom – Nothing particular. Its just age, catching up. She is getting weaker and weaker. Last night she fainted because of low blood pressure.
Me – How’s she now?
Mom – Better than yesterday but… ( Sighed )
Me – I feel so sorry for her. It’s heartbreaking to see her suffer and not being able to help.
Mom – That’s natural honey. Everything has to come to an end. Your grandparents had a good and peaceful life. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have it.
Me – hmm…
Mom – In this rather painful and last stage of her life, we should at least be with her. That’s all she wants too… She was asking for you today. She really wanna see you baby. If you could come…
Me – I will, mom. Take care of her.
I knew why mom was hesitating. She knows that I handle all the responsibilities of my husband’s family, single-handedly. I have compromised my wishes and have prioritized this family every single time. But today… the situation is different. I just NEED to go, see my dadi…
She has always been so fond of me and I just can’t afford to turn down her wish of seeing me, which can probably be her last wish from me. So, I talked to everyone in the family. Nobody wanted me to go and face inconvenience, but everybody knew the gravity of the situation.
After thinking and calculating for a while hubby said, “I have talked in my office, they can’t grant me leave. Even if we manage somehow without you, how will you go alone? You haven’t traveled all by yourself before.”
Me – Even you’ll haven’t managed on your own for at least 6 years now. If you all are ready to do it, then why not me?
Hubby – But…
Me (Interrupting him) – I’ll manage. Don’t worry.
He looked at me, in-convincingly.
Me – It’ OKAY! I can go. I’ll be careful.
He nodded and sighed…
I started packing. I put up a brave front among them, but honestly, I AM scared a little. But I have to go anyway, so I packed my bags, made many tiny arrangements so that these guys don’t have to face many problems, and I reached the New Delhi Railway Station.
Something’s very fascinating about train journeys, you’ll agree. The old-time feelings, the quintessential way of announcements, people from VERY different backgrounds on the stations, the chaos, the vendors, everything makes you reminisce about your childhood journeys.
Hubby had come to see me off. “May I have your attention, please? Train no 12436, Gareeb Rath Express, To Patna, via Kanpur, will depart at its scheduled time, 16 hrs, from platform no. 14 of New Delhi Railway station.” A computerized, familiar female voice announced on the mic.
I got into the train, put my luggage down. My seat was on the upper birth.
Hubby – Don’t get down very often. Only when its necessary and don’t buy snacks from here, keep the ticket carefully and your mobile as well.
I kept looking at him, smiling.
Hubby – Okay! you got it. Take care baby. I am already missing you.
Me – I love you too. ( I whispered in his ears)
He looked around quickly to check if anyone heard this. Actually, he is super conscious in public, and I love to embarrass him. I laughed at his nervousness. He smiled lovingly.
As the train started moving, he bid me goodbye and got off. He waved at me from a distance through the window. Though I saw the concern behind that smile, I waved back and reassured him with an eye-gesture.
How amazing it is! no? Thousands of words can’t express the feelings that the eyes are capable of…
As soon as, the train moved away from hubby’s sight, I stole a glimpse of a young man, who was sitting on the lower birth of the right side with his earplugs on.
He was well built, sharp jawline, wheatish complexion, and neatly cut hairs. I couldn’t see his eyes from where I was sitting. He was checking out me and hubby since we entered the train. I scanned the cabin to check if anyone in the compartment is doubtful. There was an elderly couple in their seventies. A family of four, husband, wife, and two boys, a Muslim middle-aged man, sleeping. All seemed harmless other than the man and the guy.
I’m not someone who judged every other person conveniently but when you travel alone, you naturally become extra conscious about your surroundings.
I watched some videos on my phone, read a page or two of a book I was carrying but got bored with it. In between, whenever I looked around I caught that guy looking at me.
After a point, it started bothering me a bit. I started planning every move in my head if anything goes wrong.
It’s around 7 in the evening. A chaiwala came into the compartment. I knew the tea would be rubbish, but I needed that, as I am used to having a cup of tea in the evenings. So I ordered one. The middle-aged man also ordered. Kids were playing candy crush on their parents’ phones. Their mom was reading a magazine and dad was sleeping. The elderly couple was talking about farms and their kids, I guess. The guy kept looking at me most of the time.
I sipped my tea and thought about what hubby might be doing right now. I called him to know.
Hub- Hey! Kahan pahuchi?
Me- I don’t know. Right now we are in the middle of nowhere.
Hub- Let me check on the app. Umm… You’re somewhere near Sonipat.
Me- Hmm. Maybe…
Hubby- Everything’s fine with you?
Me- Yup! Just a guy has been looking at me from the lower birth.
Hubby- I had told you it’s a bad idea. You never listen to me. Be careful and call the TC if he tries to do anything.
Me- The compartment is full of people. What can he do anyway?
Hubby- Just be careful and keep texting me.
Me- Okay. Bye. (smiled and hang up)
I had finished my tea, so I looked towards the door to find a dustbin. Suddenly the guy stood up, extended his hand towards me, and said “you sit, I’ll throw it. Dustbin’s there.” He pointed towards the washroom.
I was startled for a second, then I said, “No Its’ okay, I’ll manage.”
Stranger – You’ll have to get down from there. It’s okay, give it to me.” And then, for the first time, I saw his face from the front. His eyes were transparent. There was no creepiness on his face. It was a genuine, chivalry.
I gave the empty cup to him, he smiled and threw it in the dustbin, washed his hands, and sat on his seat.
“Thanks” – I said.
He looked at me and smiled.
I felt relieved. “Thanks god! He’s not a perv.” I thought to myself.
“But why is he keep looking at me?” Infatuation or something? I kept thinking about random stuff.
At around 9 p.m. everyone was eating dinner. I wasn’t hungry but I knew soon they’ll put off the light so I opened the boxes of food I had packed for myself.
When I was done, I got down to wash my hands. He pushed my slippers towards me with his legs that were under his seat. I put them on and went to the loo, while washing my hands I looked in the mirror and smiled.
Everyone slept by 10:30 p.m.
I kept tossing and turning in my bed. This is the thing with me. I can’t sleep if I’m in a new place or anything’s bothering me a lot.
My head started hurting. I checked my handbag and got pissed by myself, seeing that I had not any painkillers with me.
I kept pressing my head with my hands.
Suddenly the guy said, “Can’t sleep?”
Me – Yeah… I mean No! ( I thought he was sleeping . So when he spoke, I got surprised a bit )
Stranger – Headache?
Me – How do you know? (Surprised)
Stranger(Smiling) – Take a painkiller and sleep.
Me – Actually I forgot to pack it. This trip has been planned in a hurry.
Stranger – Ohh… I see… I am carrying painkillers. You can have it if… ( he stopped mid-sentence, and I knew exactly what he wanted to say.)
Me- No… It’s not like that. Actually I prefer not to take painkillers very often.
Stranger – Yeah, you shouldn’t, but keep it. It’s combiflam. If you can’t bear it, then take one. (And he gave me a stripe of the painkiller)
I couldn’t deny it, because the pain was getting worse.
After waiting for 15 minutes, it started feeling like someone’s hammering my head so hard. So, I checked the pill for any adulteration, but it looked fine. I took out a pill and got annoyed to see that the water bottle was empty.
“Argh! How can I be so careless?” I Mumbled.
“Here!” – I turned around. He was holding a water bottle, looking at me.
I looked at him indecisively for a couple of seconds.
He extended his hands further. I took the bottle and gulped some water with the painkiller.
“Am I trusting him more than I should?” I kept thinking and hoping that the water & medicine had nothing wrong with it.
After 20 mins I started feeling better.
The train was moving at full speed. Everything else was silent other than the noise made by the iron wheels of the train.
Suddenly he broke the silence. “Feeling better?”
Me(Smiling) – Yeah… Much better.
Stranger – You should always carry some basic medicine with you when you travel.
Me – Yes, you’re right.
An awkward pause…
Stranger – You know, you look very similar to someone really special for me.
Me- Really? (God! Please don’t say any cheesy pick up lines)
Stranger – Yeah! My wife… (Smiled)
Me – Oh! Wow!
“Here!” He turned his phone towards me.
If a person who doesn’t know any of us, see our pictures, he must say that we’re sisters or relatives, that much similar I and the lady in the pic looked.
I smiled wide.
“Wow! we look so similar,” I said, realizing why he kept looking at me the whole time.
“Yeah! It’s her convocation ceremony tomorrow. I’m going there to attend it. She’s very bright and dedicated” He said proudly.
I could feel the affection and love for his wife form the look on his face.
“Congratulations!! It’s so nice to see supportive guys like you. We need this.” (I smiled)
We kept talking about our families, jobs, life, and stuff like two old friends. The headache vanished and I fell asleep, don’t know when.
When I got up, he was gone. He didn’t even give me a chance to say thanks properly. He was lost in the crowd of this world. Certainly, I would never see him again, and I don’t even know his name.
I kept thinking about him throughout the journey. This incident completely changed the way I looked at people.
I realized that not every other guy is a rapist or a cheap creep. Most people are good actually, and they’re ready to extend a helping hand when you need it.
And as I travelled some more, over a period of time, my experience boosted this fact that bad or evil people are very very few in comparison to good and kind people. It’s just that EVIL makes more noise. And we feel that it’s overcoming humanity.
It’s not! It never can!!
GOODNESS was, is, and will always be much more than EVILNESS.
I thank my stranger friend every time I travel somewhere, for being a kind-hearted chivalrous person, for helping me without any intention or hesitation, and for restoring my faith in people and humanity.
Now I try to help people around me as much as I can. God bless him and us…
P.S- Dadi is fine now.
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