Travails of the Travel
was quite a chill in the air that morning. Five days had already
gone by since the sun showered its warm ray on the numbed face.
It was too cold to leave the bed even for performing one’s ablutions.
Even a slight thought of journey in this unfavorable season and
that too by train comes up like an electric shock to the commoners.
All were shivering with feverish cold. However, sometimes circumstances
force us to journey even if we don’t want to. Vedanta was such a
man from Kolkata who had to undertake the challenging journey to
He was in the habit
of leaving no stone unturned for the sake of building his image.
He was too much of confident of himself, his so called carefulness,
bravery and consciousness in all the activities whatever. Whenever
he heard of any pick pocketing, theft and snatching and lifting
in the buses and trains, he couldn’t help laughing at the carelessness
of the people concerned. Like a true preacher he would teach them,“
Why are you so negligent of your belongings when you are travelling
in the train or buses?”
“You should always
be all alert; as anything may happen, particularly when you are
travelling by train or bus, don’t even blink your eyes. Once your
attention is diverted, you will remain repenting forever and your
belongings are gone.”At this point of time he considered himself
a great careful person of the world. Sometimes he would have a quarrel
with his wife when she preached him to hide some money in his upper
pocket, some inner, some in the lower, and some in the back and
some front pocket, some in the bag, some in the books.
However, all the time
he would emerge victorious in diffusing her awkward plan and had
his own way happily, as he was more intelligent and smart than her
but only in his own eyes. Nevertheless, the sweet illusion of his
of being smarter was no longer there with him. One day that he cannot
forget throughout his life opened up his eyes to the hard reality
of the world full of the crooks in various forms. For one’s own
smartness is not enough to travel safe in life; he/she is expected
to be more watchful too all the time, as the world is full of more
intelligent and smarter crooks than the good and average ones like
him. At every step of life we have to be ready to encounter them
in some way or the other.
engulfed in smog as far as he could see outside though the window
of the train moving fast ahead tearing the cold silence of the dead
night. Meanwhile, to escape from the cold thought he darted his
attention to the purpose he was heading towards the capital of India.
Moreover, he was feeling bored sitting alone also. He was so lost
that he allowed himself to roam in the past of his college and university
days, friends and better than the best teachers, who impressed,
influenced, inspired and motivated him to a considerable extent.
One of such men of learning was the person with appeasing personality
who later became his father-in-law in his personal life.
It was very unfortunate
for this sexagenarian that the day he retired from the teaching
service was advised for proper diagnosis of his kidney problem which
recently raised its head sending the shock wave to the near and
dear ones to him not at the place where he was living but somewhere
else in a better and reputed hospital. Wherever the Time wanted
him to go, he visited. He tried his luck in Vellore hospital
and from there he went to AIMS, Delhi.
In the long run he
was admitted to Gangaram Hospital, Delhi. It was a major
operation performed on him resulting into the removal of one of
the kidneys badly infected. As a part of emotional succor all the
relatives were supposed to be there by his bed that day of the operation
by hook or by crook. Following others’ footprints he too posed himself
no less than any of the relatives parrying off the fact that in
fact, he was not so affluent and well off as they were in every
Thinking that he was
also earning well, he also decided to give a helping hand with whatever
he had at that point of time. He took out heavy amount of money
from his wife’s bank Account and got it credited to his as he had
the ATM card. As planned, he was to take the money out in Delhi
and hand it over to the family for the purpose concerned.
When bad times befall,
it is the bad train that gives us shelter in its cosy compartment
without any distinction between the poor and the rich, the good
and the bad. He too had to take the help such a bad – rather the
worst train to reach Delhi. Angrily hailed as very notorious this
train halted almost all the halts as if they are big stations. Although
it has a stormy name so that no passenger can avoid its existence,
it is irony that keeps hovering around station to station, halt
to halt at its snail sail/pace.
He boarded the train
and found five to six persons sitting on his berth. They were in
fact local passengers returning from respective office. He dared
not tell them anything but they guessed right that he was the owner
of the ‘seat’ and out of modesty they let him sit on his berth.
As long as he was standing between the berths of either side, they
were mocking at the people with reservation tickets. During that
time he was trying to pose as a local passenger. Besides, some students
were also sitting and discussing politics of India.
It was almost 9.30
PM Some persons had already unfolded their berths and began lying
to sleep. He too did so. He had all his money along with his ATM
Cards in upper pocket of his shirt he was in. He took them out and
wrapped and tied them with the blue strip of his Identity Card and
covered it with his sweeter all round and put it under his head.
Putting his fingers crossed he went into the long and deep slumber
as he was too exhausted and retarded. However, at the intervals
of 20.30 minutes he would wake up to see his belongings under lower
berth safe and sound. For some time being, in fact he forgot the
existence of the “wealth “under his head. Here it needs to be pointed
out that before sleeping he had thought of putting the money into
the bag and the bag under his head at night but since he had a pair
of new shoes, he wanted the bag to protect his new white shoes from
the stealing eyes by covering them.
The train was about to touch on Allahabad Station when he woke up
startled by the noise of the rowdy passengers. While sleeping he
thought to himself the passengers might be pushing in and out at
the congested door of the compartment. All on a Sudden he felt that
something was missing under his head. He finally got up this time
really startled only to find his sweeter - cum - whatever-money-he-
had gone forever. He searched all around like anything sometimes
under the berth and sometimes in the cracks of the berth but of
no use. He was physically and mentally exhausted by constant and
intensive search for his wealth. At last he made himself realize
that the thing he was looking for was in fact gone; someone needier
than him might have lifted it for their own purpose. Seeing his
sad plight he was reminded of the condition and statement of the
poor peasant who lost the piece of his bread in the short story
of Leo Tolstoy. Somehow or the other he was able to comfort myself
with the philosophical thought and the lesson Tolstoy taught to
the poor fellow like him. He had never thought that he would ever
lose any of his belongings in his life. Previously he was not aware
of the crooked way of the world but now he realized that anything
right or wrong, good or bad, big and small might happen at any time.
For that one has to be prepared beforehand for any untoward event.
The money he was carrying with him for a little bit of cooperation
of the patient would now be utilized by someone else who must be
thanking him in an indirect way from the bottom of his heart. What
an irony that the people who were earlier talking to him with great
interest, when they came to know of the theft , stopped talking
to and looking at his weeping face as they were afraid he would
ask for money.
He had no money on him ; whatever he had was lost. Counting some
coins left in his different pockets of shirt and trousers he found
that he had only Rs 9/- left. One kind man he had never seen or
known before came forward to help him with money even before he
could open his mouth for some financial help. In the beginning he
pretended not taking it but he had no option left but to take it.
He passed Rs 200/- on towards him as a philanthropic deed. When
asked about his name and whereabouts, he was some Tiwari from UP.
He expressed his thankfulness and obligation to him for the succor
he provided him in such a bad distress. This money now came up as
oxygen for a dying and sinking heart. Moreover, he had remains of
some stale snacks and 3 bananas left fortunately in the bag. Time
moved on and on and he was having a glance over the compartmental
activities. Seeing some people eating something or the other he
too started feeling hungry, hence decided to finish up the bananas
he had. The bananas also failed to help his stubborn hunger to come
down. As he spilled it up it was all rotten from within. Not a single
part of it was edible. His hunger remained unsatisfied.
Meanwhile, a “guava
seller” was crying at the top his hoarse voice,” 10 rupaye ka panch
, 10 rupaye ka panch”. He wanted to but thinking that he had only
Rs. 9 left with him and that he would have to reach Delhi, he had
to get back as it would help him at the time of hiring taxi to reach
the hospital. Somehow or the other he persuaded himself to turn
to something else rather than longing for the “sour” guava. All
those sitting by his sides and next to him were using their mouths
with something sweet, sour or salted things. On the other hand,
he, like a small child tempted, was looking at their glowing faces
and moving jaws. Whenever he was caught staring at them, he began
taking two- three gradients of pan paraag which he had to kill the
boredom in the train from time to time to show that he was also
feeding himself .The deplorable condition he was entangled into
over there can only be felt by those who have had such a bitter
experience mixed with shocks and agony. Repenting over his careless
act, he wished he had abided by what his better half had suggested!
He had kept rupees in various pockets of his shirt and trousers
and books etc. Had he acted on her advice, he would not have found
himself in such a deplorable condition!!!
Hunger again and again
knocked at the door of his stomach but the inner consciences of
his succeeded in not letting it in and affect him in any way. In
order to forget the dancing pain of his hunger he thought of writing
and giving a literary shape to the feeling and experience making
experiments inside him. He kept writing and writing and was lost
in it to such an extent that he failed to believe that the train
had already arrived on the platform of his destination. Instead
of feeling happy his heart started beating against the inner wall
of his chest because he had lost his ticket too.
Story Teller BHASKAR
JHA, Born and brought up in a small village of Kharka Basant
under Jalley Block of Darbhanga district of Bihar, I have done my
MA in English Literature with specialization in Linguistics and
Phonetics from Lalit Narayan Mithila University, Darbhanga (Bihar)
and am presently pursuing Ph. D. on Kamala Markandaya. I am very
fond of writing poems, short stories, views on news in various newspapers
like The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Statesman , The
Telegraph etc. Some of my poems are posted on literary websites
like www.voicesnet.com, www.museindia.com, www.poetrysoup.com www.ielforum.org,
to name a few ones. Contact:
VECC, DEPARTMENT OF ATOMIC ENERGY, 1/AF, BIDHAN NAGAR, KOLKATA-700064