The tale of the first ride

I stood nervous, not sure if I was ready for it. Had I done the recommended?
The cash was put in three different places. Cellphone was switched off and hided. Books were in the lappy bag, lappy in the ruscksack, rucksack locked, key in the wallet. Wallet in the front pocket. Packaged water and food purchased. Intestine and bladder emptied. What else? yeah, shirt outed, hair ruffled. A compartment with relatively better dressed people selected after a full scan of the train.
That meant I was well prepared and the apprehension was only because it was the first time. I pulled the waist strap of my rucksack- buckled up to say, and finally put first steps in what was going to be my first ride in a passenger train.
I work in a power plant company and so we are fated to live in a remote place, which, if you are lucky, might be directly connected to a city by rickety buses or passenger trains .
But I didn't feel lucky. Instead I felt like a kid having to go through a garden in the night, the spooky stories of which he has heard from his many friends who survived because of their bravery and wisdom. And so I did what the survivors told me to. I used the rucksack as my pillow and slept on the empty uncomfortable wooden berth, even though it was just 9 in the morning.
I didn't know how much time had passed when I got woke up by some guy's shove. "Aapka batuwa neeche gir gaya tha." Your wallet had fallen down. He handed me the wallet smiling gently.
I thanked him and looked away. There were people sitting by my feet. They hadn't woken me up(I was the only one sleeping). Was it their low self esteem? I sat and gazed at the guy who had just woken me up. He was still looking at me, smiling and perhaps wanting to initiate a conversation. And so I looked out of the window. Its always the same on a window seat- farms, meadows and rivers, and a strong breeze rubbing against your face.
"Kaha jaa raheae?" The guy just couldn't hold anymore.
"Huh?"
"Aap kaha jaa raheae?" where are you going? He asked in a poetic bihari tone typical to that region where you stretch the last syllable.
"Umm...Shaktinagar."
"Padhte ho wahaaan?" You study there?
"Nahi kaam karta hu. NTPC mein." No. I work in NTPC.
"Accha! Hamar sala bhi wahi haiai. Sicoreety gaadwa haiai." My brother-in-law also works there. He is a security guard.
"Badhiya."
The guy still kept on looking and smiling, and so I continued the talk. "Aap kaha jaa rahe ho?" Where are you going?
"Chopan. Aur chopan se Bilaspur."
"Hmm."
"Waha ichchadhari naagwa aya haiai. Usi ke darshanwa ke liye jaa rahe. Uske paani se lakwa, andhapan sab gayab ho jaye. Bahut chamatkaari naagwa hai. Mandirwa bhi bana rahe hai wahaaan. " I am going to visit a miraculous snake who has the power to heal people. They are building a temple for him. He said that with an enthusiasm and pride that you have when you are sure you news is going to surprise the other person.
"Hmm." Though he did amuse me and ease me, I showed no interest and thus cut the conversation.
The train was dirty and dingy but wasn't that bad. There was a child eating guawa hungrily and still sharing it with his younger brother. There were crippled kids singing First time dekha tujhe love hogaya in corrupted lyrics and people were giving money to them. And though there was the fruitwala and I was hungry, and the song was good and they were begging, I couldn't participate.
I simply planned to observe more and so didn't sleep again. Also the seats had been immideately taken when I had sat.
It was quite pleasant when the train was moving. But it spent more time stationary than traversing as it had the least priority. As such if you are in no hurry to reach the destination you don't get frustrated much. In fact, with time I was liking the journey. Women in their colored sarees- a one or two breast feeding, men peeing openly on tracks in groups while chit-chatting, kids with blowing noses playing and fighting- it was a mundane, uncomplicated scene and still wondrous.
After 9 hrs for a 200 km track, my station came. Things had changed drastically in that time, though only inside me. Insecurity was replaced by peace, what had been dull was interesting, filthy was beautiful.
I would also exaggerate, dramatise and tell the tale, I decided. But not as that of survival and bravery, but as that of acceptance and love.

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