This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 31; the thirty-first edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is 'Strangers in the Night'
The title is directly lifted from the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. But that does not matter. This post is not going to be another review of one of the finest films of the master craftsman. ‘Strangers on a Train’ features the same elements of a usual Hitchcockian flick, viz, wrong accusation, macabre, and similar things. The film does not give any significance to trains as a whole, apart from its all-catchy presence in the name, and its visual presence in the opening scenes in order to create a platform for the two antagonists to meet. But, my post has train and train journey as the main theme.
It was a Christmas season, the Yuletide was about to begin, the climate was chilly, and frozen drops of water perching on leave tops in the morning was becoming a common sight. I was in Trivandrum, so I began to pack up my things little by little to go home for a weeklong emotional hibernation. But my plans suddenly changed when my sister rang up and asked me to stay with her family for Christmas. That could be another good idea, I thought, because she had her children, my little nieces, with them the Christmas wouldn’t have made another usual stagnation phase for me.
I booked my train tickets, to and fro. To reach her home, I had to travel the entire Kerala, since if Trivandrum is the southernmost district, her family was settled at the northernmost one. One night long sleep on train would take me to her home, and the return trip also would take another night long journey. I booked my tickets so that I would reach there on the morning of the day prior to Christmas, and after departing from her home on the noon of the day following Christmas, I could have reached my workplace in the early morning hours of the next day.
On the day of the journey, with my travel bag, I reached the railway station on an auto rickshaw. Just like in every time, I had to argue with the rickshaw driver, that is another story. On the train, I did not find any difficulty in spotting my berth, and since the twilight had already been evanescing away, I thought about sleeping. I put alarm on my cell phone for 6:30 in the morning. My berth was the lowest one, closest to the door. I was sure that I was not going to sleep tight, since I had this problem of sleeplessness if bedded on a different place.
The train was moving fast, tearing away the dark, blowing its horn majestically, along with its symmetric, harmonious jerks. Though the noise irritated my ears, with its frequent contact with the ear drum, it began to feel like lullabies.
At a station, a family including men, women, and kids boarded on my compartment. I was actually on a nap, when I was woken up by their talks. The kids asked something disappointingly and disputatiously to their father, and he tried to answer them though not in a pleasing manner. He was in an attempt to find their berths by using the light from a small torch. One of the berths booked by them was mine, and my nearest berths also were booked by them. They asked me for my ticket, when I produced mine, they were silent. They decided to wait till the examiner comes. I was feeling sleepy, but the family members were talking each other anxiously, which disturbed my peace.
When the examiner showed up in his batman’s coat, they complained at him. The examiner checked their tickets thoroughly, and told them that they had booked their berths for the day before. They all were got astounded. What could have happened? I thought. The train reaches on the station where they boarded at around 12 O’clock in night. For Railways the time will be 00:00, so starts the next day. Without knowing this, they might have booked tickets for the day before, and the person at the ticket counter might have issued tickets for the wrong day without fully understanding their requirement.
The Examiner was trying to convince them what could have gone wrong. Now what? The examiner asked them to pay charge from the train’s starting point to end point (I am not sure) as penalty, and also he checked his list to know which berths would become vacant next. But to get some berths freed, they needed to have waited for some more hours.
I was watching the entire actions through my half opened eyes. The whole compartment was dark except the corridor which was lit partially where the entire family found their resort in the night. Seeing my eyes watching them, one woman shed her inhibition, and sat on my berth close to my feet. She asked me about my destination, though passively; and when I replied the name of the place where I needed to go, she exhaled deeply, possibly thinking about the distance they needed to travel to get at least one seat vacant. She asked to me very politely out of humiliation that whether she could have sat on my berth. I replied affirmatively, but I guessed that sympathy might have been more hurting.
I noticed that they stopped talking each other, and was resting by leaning on the tin walls of the corridor. While lying thinking about the family head’s helpless state on launching his family in such a situation, I saw the images of them gradually submerging in thin air, on the backdrop of the pale light coming from the corridor.
The next morning I was woken up by the alarm from my cell phone. The compartment was not packed then like the night before. The strangers in the night were nowhere near to be seen. I got ready, and after an hour I was welcomed by my sister’s father-in-law at the station.
After spending Christmas with them, I boarded the noon train the next day of Christmas. At the station, I happened to meet the same family whom I met on the night train; yes the strangers in the night. Though they couldn’t identify me, (since I was lying in the dark, when I saw them on the train) I introduced myself at them. They were happy to see me, and narrated what happened then. But when the train trumpeted about its imminent departure by blowing the sharp horn, stopping the conversation, I joined the pace of the moving train.