I was broken. I was suspended for an entire semester in my college days because of which the relation with my parents hit a temporary low. I stopped borrowing money from them. They tried sending money but I was too egotist to accept “their” money.
Like all youngies, I was a hot headed rebel ready to revolt without any reasons. I started working as a freelance content writer. The content creation market was (and still is) full of accomplished and wannabe writers and it was tough to snatch a project. I somehow managed to bag some tasks every month and hence in some way managed to survive. But as I said I was a hothead. I had an argument with a batch-mate (not a friend) over some trivial matter and to make my point clearer, I smashed his brand new HP laptop on the wall. In only a matter of 10 seconds, I owed him a mammoth 40,000 bucks. I was unplaced and most of my friends were placed in different companies.
I came home for seventh semester breaks and had to leave urgently for some off campus placement session in New Delhi.
“Shramjeevi Express” was to depart at 11.45am and it was already late by 10 minutes at Patna Junction. I had 2 bottles of mineral water, neatly packed separate boxes for lunch & dinner, a current affairs magazine and a novel that warranted a nice comfortable journey to Delhi. And to add to it, the train was oddly vacant, an unusual sight on any Patna-Delhi train. The Train started with a jolt and hence started my journey.
“Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging alone like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle”
I recalled these lines from one of my junior school poetries, I was enjoying the train ride. Some things can be enjoyed only when you are in the company of your own sweet-self and “World through a train window” most certainly is one of them. In three hours the train stopped at Buxarstation. I was now trying to dig deep into a magazine to get a prevue of what is happening in the largest democracy of the world, home to 1.2 billion people. The attentiveness of the concerned citizen was broken by a slight murmur. A firang (foreign) couple was questioning a local about something. The local, however was pretty bad in English. He was trying his best but the poor guests were super confused. I thought of helping the confused couple.
It was an American couple, who came to Biharto visit the Buddhist Monasteries and temples and were on their way to Varanasi which is roughly a 7 hour train journey from
Patna . In no time we started chatting. That’s the thing with the Americans, they get all gossipy in no time. They sat with me for some time and tried finding a solution to their problem. The Problem was not exactly a complicated one. They had a general class ticket and were inside a sleeper coach. They wanted to avail the right ticket in order to get a nice seat for themselves in the sleeper coach. I told them that the TTE is the designated authority who will charge them the routine fine and then would make a ticket for them. The Male was about 60 year of age and he called himself “Matt”, the lady was probably two-three younger than him. I never got to know her name. Unlike the Indian setup, the husband was doing most of the talking. The Couple then started talking about the things that they saw in India. They told me about their visit to the Peepul tree in
Bodhgaya under which Siddhartha got enlightenment and transformed in to
Buddha. From Vedic culture to Islamic invasions in India to British Raj, we discussed about a lot of things. After half an hour the TTE came, prepared their tickets and allotted them berths. They bid adieu to me and left for their seats. I started looking out of the train window again. Now the train was speeding towards Mughal Sarai junction one of the major railway stations in the Patna-Delhi route. While looking out I was carelessly twitching my hands to grab the magazine that was resting somewhere on the seat, but instead my hands found something harder and bigger. I turned back. I saw a black pouch with a crocodile symbol on it, bearing the brand-name “Lacoste”.
I recalled that the American lady was carrying the Pouch. “Ah! Careless old lady. Let me hand this back to her” was my immediate response. I stood up with the pouch to look around for them. My slightly subjugated evil side reminded me of my poverty. I brushed the evil thought away and continued walking.
The war within:
JOBLESS…USELESS….PENNILESS…WORTHLESS WASTE OF LIFE…AT LEAST CHECK WHAT’S INSIDE THE BAG
I continued walking disregarding the evil part’s advice. I passed the washroom.
GET INSIDE. CHECK WHAT IS INSIDE THE BAG
I stopped walking. I was standing there at the washroom gate with a lady bag in my hand, perplexed.
40000 THOUSANDS DEBT…REMEMBER THAT
I got inside the washroom and bolted it promptly.
YES THAT’S THE WAY TO DO IT. NOW OPEN IT.
The Pouch had three sections with zips and was surprisingly quite capacious for its small size. Inside the first section, there was a Blackberry phone and a fancy Samsung flip phone and it was 2007 mind you. The second section had a Sony Camcorder and the third section had some credit/debit cards along with twenty thousand rupees.
AT LEAST SIXTY THOUSAND IN THE GREY MARKET BUDDY. PAY 40 THOUSAND TO THE RASCAL AND THE REST IS ALL YOURS. THIS WILL LAST YOU AN ENTIRE SEMESTER. NO NEED TO FIGHT FOR THE CONTENT WRITING PROJECTS.
I agreed. I returned to my seat, packed the pouch in my bag and sat down patiently waiting for the train to reach Mughal Sarai. I planned to disembark at Mughal Sarai and then proceed to Delhi on some other train.
“India was great. And Bihar was wonderful. Everyone advised me against going to Bihar. They said people in Bihar rob foreigners, I on the other hand found them more welcoming than the rest of India” I recalled Matt’s words.”
“ Yes…will come to India with friends next time” I remembered his wife’s words.
The Train was speeding along the green farms. I still remembered the lines from my old school poetry but I was not enjoying the train ride, not even one bit. I was restless. My inner peace was gone.
Two guests in India with no money in their hands and with no means of communication, all because of me. What happened to the good old “ Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam ”(Whole world is family). Does a fat stack of money outweigh the conscience of a man? And what about the reputation of my state and my country?
ALL RIGHT GO AHEAD YOU MUTTONHEAD, THE EVIL SURRENDERED.
Without wasting a single moment, I took the pouch out and started looking for them in every compartment. I hardly went 5 compartments ahead that I saw them desperately searching for “something”. The Woman was standing with teary eyes, the man was shouting at her and at everybody. I waved my hands at them and showed them their “something”. They came running towards me.
“ Where did you find it?” The man asked.
“ You left it at my seat ”, I replied.
“ God bless you. You don’t know how valuable this is for me?” He said again
“ No problems, just be a little more careful when you are traveling ”, I said.
The man nodded in approval but the lady was staring blankly at me. And then she hugged me, the silent warmth of her hug said everything.
The Inner Peace:
I still owed a fellow Forty thousand inr. I still had a strenuous placement session to go through. I had 8 hours of train journey left but I was a content man because I was appreciating “World through a train window” again.