The guy on the opposite berth across from mine was lying on his berth but was lost in The Delhi Times. I turned towards the light which was powered on and now pricking me directly in the eyes instantly after my realizations.
He caught me looking at himself and removed the newspaper from between of us as it was blocking his view of me. He said, “You may let me know if the light troubles you”, followed by a grin.
“I will manage”, I replied with measured words. He smiled and said, “If you feel sleepy don’t hesitate to nudge me and ask for it”. I pinned him down with my glare and covered myself with the blanket.
Morning. The watch flashed 7:00 AM. A familiar smell wafted through the compartment, filling my nose and senses. I looked outside around the platform. It read: BORIVALI. Vendors were selling the amazing Indian burger or Vada-pao.
Wide awake, I was now seated comfortably on my berth and presently even the man on the opposite berth looked awake. In fact, he seemed ready to clarify last night’s misunderstandings.
“You turned quiet red last night?” was his opening line. My mouth went open in amazement and after two seconds was shut tight. Speechless! What was I to fathom of ‘turning red’? He continued, “Dekhiye Reemaji….”
SHOCKING! He called me by my name! For once I couldn’t believe a fellow passenger could know my name and without second thought I responded,
“How do you know?”
“Arey wohh! Dekhiye Reemaji aisa hai ki hum aate jaate apni aankh aur kaan khuli rakhte hain. Bahar list mein humne apka naam aur umra malum kiya tha”. (Oh that! Reemaji, it is like this – I keep my eyes and ears open. Outside on the chart, I saw your name, and age.)
I was too baffled to speak. Cheap, I thought and had the urge to say, but I minded my language.
He went on, “This helps in building relations with our co-passengers”.
Build relations? In my journey from Delhi to Bombay? I couldn’t make out the head or tail of the conversation that this man was trying to make. Probably a Delhi retard.
“Aur Reemaji, It really doesn’t matter whether the lights are on or off if you are actually sleepy. Am being utterly honest. You couldn’t get sleep and so you blame the light which is not fair”.
I was looking at him. A very calm and composed look. But deep within I wanted to shout! This is how the Arabian Sea must feel, I suddenly conjectured picturing the quintessential image of Marine Drive in the monsoons, with the waves crashing against the rocks.
I was trying not to look at him to discontinue the talk but he managed to find some way of meeting my eye. No matter how hard I tried, this chap would not allow me retain my cool self and very soon I felt I may have to get rude with him to ward off his uselessness.
He starts telling me about his nightmarish flight due to which he had resorted to traveling by trains and how he doesn’t get sleep in train journeys ever. He hailed from Delhi but had been working in Mumbai for the past few years. Then he comes to the topic of his marriage about which he was least bothered but wanted me to listen. I hesitated but he insisted.
He was called to Delhi by his parents so that he would be able to meet and like the girl that they had chosen for him. So accordingly, on the appointed day, his parents and him set off to see the bride to be. It turned out that an unpleasant surprise was awaiting them. They were in for a shock when the girl appeared and announced that she already was married secretly with another man!
I wondered what I was doing listening to personal elegies of strangers in the train? I finally had to break my silence.
“Call me Ripuhan”.
“Yes, I am sorry I have a headache. Could you please excuse me?”
“Of course not!”
“You should take a medicine. Wait, have this, a Disprin”. He extended the tablet towards me.
“Oh no! I don’t accept things from strangers. Thank you…”
“Stranger?? Come on Reema, just now I told you I am Ripuhan”.
We looked at each other. He held my gaze for a moment. Darkness suddenly enshrouded us as the train had moved into a tunnel.
Written by Shweta Dubey. Shweta hails from Mumbai, holds an M.Sc. in Communication Studies and works as a Content Writer. She actively participates in volunteering for underprivileged children and older members of society. When she is not exciting total strangers through her stories, she writes poetry.