Bangalore. One of those days... When there had to be a jam in traffic at every signal on a dark dark evening. When the metro work had to unearth a ton of soil and add barricades to the already narrow roads. When Nature decided to turn on her faucet and it poured like crazy. When I would have been run over by a HV. When abuses for crossing a slushy road with a huge backpack, in the midst of moving traffic sounded like music for the sheer reason that I had made it to the other end. When I was probably destined to miss my train!
With a few minutes left for my train to depart, I was stuck up like a fat hen trying to cross a road with breezing traffic. I could see the train on the platform with red blinkies and announcements for departure. Dripping from head to toe and dragging on with almost drained out confidence of making it on time, I pulled myself together. Getting directions from the auto guys as to where the entrance to the station was-after ruling out the possibility of climbing the walls, I managed to reach the platform. More goof ups on getting to the bogie and dragging along feet that felt like logs soaked for lumbering, I made it to 2AC. Oopss!! did i say "my train"?.. Well, I am on WL1.
I sit on some random berth and end up with real nice berth-mates. I wait for the TT with water dripping from clinging jeans and craving for a blanket. My non-confirmed ticket leaves me blanket-less. Finally the TT comes along at around 20:30ish and asks me why I boarded the train if I was on the WL. I make a mental note to lash out on Tims for telling me that I could pay the TT for a berth. I ask if I can buy a new ticket/for any other possibility. Anyways, turns out that there is no berth that the TT can offer and he asks me to get off the train! Berth-mates ask me to hang on and I squeeze on to a corner and fall asleep, head hanging like an over-sized fruit. The next TT comes along and asks for my ticket. I am called over for a chat.
The whole compartment is asleep with dimmed lights. The TT sits on the side berth near the door and asks me if I am a Manipuri. I answer in the negative & he says that he figured it out since my nose wasn't flat! OMG!! Once he gets my identification details, he asks me to sit at the other end of his berth. The reason?- to give him company since the travel would be boring for him!! Me the WL traveler, stuck up with a huge cauldron-bellied TT who found it hard to believe that I was married. And then, my heart does a somersault! He pulls the curtain half way through citing reasons that even the dim light hurts his eye. I stop it midway to the seat, offering prayers in parallel. He then pulls my cheek and calls me a 'sweet little kid'. By now I am wondering if I should tell him off.. possibilities- I could be thrown out for not having a confirmed ticket at 1:00AM. He then tells me that I am like a daughter to him and that he will see to it that I get a berth. In return, I would have to 'take care' of him, he says this with a pat on my knee. By now, I hit multiple 'OMG's. He follows this by stories of his family and of all things- women using pills to avoid having kids to look beautiful!! (OMG! OMG!)*n .. why me!!!??...
All this while I try to look strong(ahem.. that I am! ;) karate classes;) you see)... and start questioning him about Tirupati. I end up asking him the geography/history/politics of the place just so that I keep him at a safe topic!! Pheww!!
With another pull on my cheek and a 'sweet little child of mine', he asks me how much I would pay him. Takes 200bucks and gives me back a 100. I finally get a berth at 3:30AM!!! By now my muscles are cramped and the jeans are clinging on like a second skin. I wrap myself up and doze off to the rumble of snores and whistles.
When I look back I can't help but remember the shudder I felt with the way the TT behaved. But the poor man was probably putting forward his grievances and having a brave looking freaked out girl listen to him. His eyes welled up when he mentioned his son who was no longer with him. A sullen face when he said that his daughter-in-law wanted their savings but not them. And he probably meant it when he called me his daughter. But the media, circumstances & incidents around have made us so wary of our surroundings that we have a hard time trusting people. And like Vishu had foreseen, I now think of that night with a smile, happy that I didn't shout but unwillingly ended up listening to the sorrow of a fellow being. :)