We drove amid the downpour for an hour to reach Katihar Jn. The loud splashes at the window and the faint music in the car sort of swirled into a nostalgic lemonade, throwing me onto the glowing streets of Ranchi – Airport road and all – and I ended up thinking about someone I shouldn’t. I was also missing my mother a lot, because she’d always come to see me off in all these years and that day was an exception. It was plain nostalgia, but it was pretty awful.
The train arrived, trundling with an ebbing musical roar, well before time and I picked my luggage up and started towards B8. Red coaches, white lights, blue seats – Rajdhani offers you weird amusements. The last time I travelled by this train, I swore never to come back here. But you know my mother, right? She thinks Rajdhani is Noah’s arc and so I was here, yet again, jostling through the crowd to find my seat, my mind doubtful and my soul uneasy.
That’s when I saw her. Black top, dark blue jeans and rectangular frameless specs. There was a man by her who I suppose was her father. They both didn’t look related at all, though. She was pretty and he looked like the normal middle aged guy who acts in teleshopping commercials. My seat was just above her and it was kind of comforting. No, I wasn’t filled with lust instantly like I am supposed to. You see, when you are missing your guava trees, erection is impossible.
I sat on the edge of the seat and twenty minutes later, the dad bid her bye and got off the train. Okay, now I was curious. I scanned through the boggie and found just one competitor – the guy on the side upper berth. He seemed like a narcissistic moron, who would spend a hundred bucks on haircut. But he wasn’t much interested, it appeared, and that escalated my chances of getting to strike up a conversation with her.
I had it planned. I’d pretend to look out the window, but just so well that she knows I’m pretending to look out the window, and check her out, just so well that she knows I’m checking her out. Then, I’d check her reaction.
Yeah! That was it! This trick never gets old. How else do you think Roman knights wooed their damsels? They pretended to look somewhere else.
Er..As it turned out, though, the girl took my acting seriously and started looking out the window herself. She thought I saw something fishy, like a flying baby or something, so I stopped peering out and let a behemoth sigh. This idea tanked like Bombay Valvet.
I thought about giving another try. I pulled out my sleek golden Galaxy J2 and plunged my earpieces in and fished through my albums for a girly romance. There was none, so I played Lootera. I was halfway through the movie when I realized I had to only pretend to watch the movie, and not actually watch it, and just so well that she knows I’m pretending to watch the movie and well you know the rest. Ughh…this was proving to be a lot more difficult than I’d imagined.
The train staff arrived with samosas, and just ten minutes later, a family stepped in. There were five kids in that goddamn family. Perhaps the news of the invention of condoms had not yet reached their village. Five kids who looked alike and wore the same dress. I bit the samosas with trembling jaws as I calculated how many hours more to go with those imps in the next boggie. Delhi was yet a billion light years away, but I hoped they’d realize they’d boarded the wrong train and get off at the next station. That didn’t happen anyway.
The bastard – the other guy in his late twenties, with receding hairlines and all, who looked like an Insurance agent you shouldn’t trust – on my opposite seat took advantage of my nervousness and tried on the girl. First, he called somebody on the phone and started conversing in lame English. There’s this English that you speak from your heart, and then there’s this English you speak to make your copassengers guess if you are the illegitimate child of Warren Hastings. This guy was getting an accent in his conversation, and that pissed me off.
Then what he did was completely out of the book. He hung up and asked the girl if she was from DU.
“Galgotias. “She said and I almost laughed.
“Oh. “He said, “My cousin studied there. ”
Like fuck he did! Like fuck he had a cousin!
“Oh nice. “The girl said. Now I was getting worked up, and to add to my ire, the five kids in the next boggie started crying together. There was no symphony in their wails and it jabbed my ears and gave me cerebral aneurysm. I loathe kids.
The man started talking about his cousin and this teacher who she would probably get to know in the second year, and I just pretended to look at my Galaxy J2 while I gritted my teeth in rage.
The only comfort was that the girl wasn’t interested much.
The kids stopped howling after their mother thrusted a lollipop each in their mouths and I felt like asking why she hadn’t done it already for the last one million years. Parents are dicks, I tell you.
I finished Lootera and concluded that love is bullshit after all and nobody’s going to paint leaves for me, so I climbed up onto my berth and tried to sleep. I couldn’t because the blinding white from the flush mount ceiling light was giving my soul a third degree torture. I considered switching it off but the girl had already opened The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by now, and I was pretty sure she couldn’t read in the dark. Damn.
Late at night, when people were about to sleep, she asked me if there was an extra pillow on my berth. I felt like giving her my own pillow. Umm…not really. Sacrificing your pillow is the zenith of virtue. This Ranchi girl I dated once asked me to come over to her room so that we could sleep together (in the most innocent manner possible) but get my own pillow because she wouldn’t share hers with me whatsoever.
Anyway, that bastard got off his seat and went to the train staff and demanded a pillow without the delay of a breath.
“I’ll rate this train a big 0, I swear. “He swore, and I could see the girl’s face and I almost laughed at how she wanted to jump out the emergency window.
“Is he your brother? “I asked. She looked at me, pretending to be thinking about it, but just so well that I knew she was pretending to be thinking about it and said,
“That would be a nice proposition. ”
He brought two pillows with him and asked her to tell him if she needed anything else.
“Thanks Bhaiyya. “The girl said.
They never talked again.
An hour later, I thought about giving it a shot, this time, without any pretense, and so I poked my head down, but she was asleep and beautiful and so I just smiled and got my head back on my berth and slept.
Till the kids started crying again.