Aug 13, 2008

‘Time Kya Ho Raha Hein?’

(I thought first about giving title to this post as ‘When my shyness was at its climax’, but for better conveyance I am posting it under this title)

I stepped on my compartment of Kalka–New Delhi train after a short-term official visit at the enchanting hill station, Shimla, accompanied by my fellow traveler.

As we approached our seats I saw the next seats to ours as already occupied. They were chatting, a family consisting of a middle-aged mother, her two daughters in teenage and their chota bhai (little brother) with a couple sat on the side seats. They stopped the conversation as we entered, a little bit embarrassed by the sight of the new occupants of the compartment. I noticed the younger girl, a nice looking one, whom we can refer with the term ‘cute’ perfectly, and with her style in turning the head suddenly so as to scatter the silky sort of golden hair all over the face, she was looking much haughtier. I removed my jacket, which I had been wearing while walking through the platform due to the coldness, for, being a place close to the hill station Shimla, Kalka too has its characteristics. Before the train set off from the station, I went to the cafeteria for dining and returned.
As the train left the station, the mother and daughters talked something, and without much delay, the elder girl, a short figured, yet pretty, about sixteen, who was in a black woolen cloth and jeans, climbed upon the uppermost birth at my opposite side using the side ladder. Her climbing process brought to my mind the picture of a chimp that climbs the tree branches with its inherited skills. While I looked at her, she glanced at me with a childish naughtiness and so soon she had fallen asleep under the blanket cover.
To break the snow frozen between us, I asked the man who had been sitting at the side seat using my negligible knowledge in Hindi, ‘Kitna time lagega, Delhi tak? (How much time it would take, to reach Delhi?)
He said something short in Hindi vaguely; that I did not get completely, anyway I could get that he was going to Agra along with his wife.
The mother and the younger girl were talking something each other in a confidential tone. Meanwhile the younger brother just sat with a staring look and opened mouth by showing no particular interest or disinterest in anything.
It was a long trip with nothing to do anything special. Being a person with the habit of no-too-much-talks, my fellow traveler too found as not helpful to overcome the boredom. Meanwhile, the mother, and younger daughter opened their tiffin carrier that they brought with them, and with a silent nod or look at ours conveying a sign of ‘excuse-me’, the mother opened it and began to share it with the two children. After the lunch, they too began to sleep inside the sleeping bags. Already the compartment was a dumb one and as they began to sleep, it brought to my mind the atmosphere of a silent hospital ward.
I did not know how much time had elapsed. But I had known that it would take a little more than four hours to reach Delhi after you set off from Kalka. A little bit nervous, I had been checking each and every station that the train had been passing.
The elder girl soon woke up, like the same chimp she climbed down from the berth; she made her mother and sister awake and began to talk something loudly in her typical shrill feminine voice. Like a parakeet she undid her woolen jacket and went to the washbasin and came back. It is now she also ate something and talked something to her brother in a mocking way, who kept the same unobtrusive staring look as the reply. She had been trying to make the atmosphere alive and her genuine tomboy-like presence kept the momentum of the compartment lively. She went to the washbasin several times necessarily or unnecessarily, or in certain occasions she might have pretended as if she needed to go to the washbasin, for to go washbasin she must had to pass us, since she was sitting at the window sides, and we were at the edges of the seats. One time, when she came back from the washbasin, she just stopped close to me looking at the floor, I wondered, as I was all the time watching her. She asked, pointing to the floor,
‘yeh kiska hein?’ (Whose is this?),
I looked at the floor, and it was nothing other than my own blue-denim ‘Sherlock Holmes’ cap, which accidentally had fell down, and I picked it up with a silent nod showing thankfulness. But I did not say anything.
Sometimes later, a poor woman entered the compartment at a station with a picture of a god. She had been seeking money from the passengers as charity. Nobody was giving money. When she came close to me, she said something to show appreciation such as ‘kithna achcha beta’ (What a good boy!) or something like that in a blessing manner. Though I was not flattered, I gave my fellow passenger a nod, which encouraged him to give her some money, as we considered this as the proper way of behavior while traveling in strange parts of the country. Some times later, a railway boy came and supplied us some tea. I gave him something like 50 rupees, but he demanded change in a shouting manner, which made me to give him the exact change.
Train journey again became boring; all except the elder daughter fell asleep under the woolen blankets. She was sitting at the window looking outside, and frequently she had been glancing at me turning her head. I thought about asking something her, but my innate feeling of shyness did not allow me.

To tell the truth, I had been preparing a ‘script’ in mind, as it was the method of one of my friends in Kerala before approaching a girl. But in my case, such scripts were not found as working. I attempted several ‘script works’ in my mind like ‘starting with a ‘hi’, though I dropped this idea as it being ‘too common’. I also thought about formal beginnings like ‘kahan ja rahi hein? (Where are you traveling to?)’, or ‘kya hein aapka naam (What is your name?)’. But nothing found as effective as per the resolutions of my inhibited mindset. I really hoped that, if she would start by asking something, we could start a conversation, and at that exact moment she turned at me and asked in a musical tone,
‘Time kya ho raha hein?’ (What is the time now?)
Actually, as I wished, herself had started the conversation, but my timid mindset was in a defending mode. Though, I had replied by telling the time, my inarticulate reply obviously had prevented her from making more questions.
The time was evening, and the tint of dusk had transmitted into the compartment too. Everybody became bored, and her mother and sister too woke up from the sleep. To escape from the boredom, both the sisters began to tease their younger brother by tapping his long nose, and with each tapping he smiled shyly. As Delhi had been approaching many passengers came to our compartment since it was the closest to the door. They all were enjoying and smiling heartily at the sight of the two sisters pampering their little brother. But I was indifferent slightly; when I looked at her she glanced at me after a tap at the boy’s nose. I showed some arrogance and never smiled like the other travelers. One elderly man said to me ‘bhaisaab, aapka topi’ (Sir, your cap), pointing towards the floor. I just picked my cap up from the floor, that had fallen down accidentally for the second time, haughtily without even saying thanks or at least without a courtly nod, I don’t know why!
Now the Delhi station had been approaching, and I picked up my weighty bag and placed it at the side seat. Pretending unwitting, the girl sat at the same seat embracing my bag for sometime in silence. Again, I thought about asking something like ‘Could I help you by carrying your luggage to outside?’ but no! again my famous shyness captured me on my neck, and I just sat with my idiotic arrogant face. I heard she was complaining her mother, that ‘ma this journey was very much boring’, and obviously I too had been feeling the same.
As the station reached, every body began to go out of the compartment. I too picked up my bag and became a part of the hustling crowd. Her mother was in front of me, and she looked at my face with a hilarious smiling tone raising her face as if she had been looking at the sky, since the mother too in the similar fashion of her daughters was short.
The girl grabbed the mobile phone from her mother and talked to her relative over the phone in between the struggling crowd, whom they had been expecting at the station. Her talking style was in the most responsible way. I was looking at her, while I was going out, and now she was not noticing me at all and along with her sister and mother she had been dragging their luggage out.

After I reached outside, I waited sometime for my fellow traveler, and when joined with him, both of us started to walk in the dim light of the railway station. While he was in his usual style of silence, I was in a defeated feeling of loss. My heart was aching a little bit, and I thought of crying my heart out, I looked back, and in between the moving crowd and the ugly shades of night, I could not spot her.

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