Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Strangers Speak

I travel frequently with my family and almost always by train. Last week we made a very short trip to Pune to see my mother who will soon move to Kolkata with my brother and his wife. We generally travel by the AC Class, but with last minute booking of tickets, we decided to travel by the Sleeper Class for availability of seats.

On our return journey, we had three senior citizens for company. A Bengali couple who kept to themselves and a Maharashtrian gentleman who exchanged pleasantries. As the train left Pune with the hustle and bustle due to a lot of local travellers who get in at Pune to get off at nearby stations; my attention went to the seats at the side where a elderly muslim gentleman was sitting. He must be about 70 years . A middle aged lady approached him regarding the seat occupancy and she sat across and the conversation (in Hindi) began as follows :

Lady: Are you travelling alone?

Man: Yes amma. Gives a charming toothless smile

Lady: Is this your seat?

Man: Yes, How about you?

Lady: I am also travelling alone. I have a confirmed seat. My husband ensured that I have a confirmed seat.

Man: To Hyderabad ?

Lady: Yes, How about you?

Man: To Hyderabad. Where are you from?

Lady: From Hyderabad, My daughter stays here, she is married.

Man: How many children do you have?

Lady: I have three, eldest is a son, followed by two daughters. The youngest is yet to get married.

Man: What does your son do?

Lady: My son is in the army. We are not in touch with him. He left us to marry a girl of his choice. That girl very neatly trapped him. Last I heard they had a baby.

Man: Ooh!

Lady: What to do ? Not once has he tried to meet us. It is o.k. This is our destiny. How about your family?

Man: I have two sons and a daughter. Both the sons are married. I have good daughters-in-law. They take good care of me and my wife.

Lady: Oh that is nice. Were you visiting relatives in Pune?

Man: Smiles and blushes. No I have a wife in Pune.

Lady: What? Looks shocked and amused at the same time.

Man: Yes, I have two wifes. One in Hyderabad and one in Pune. Grins

Lady: Children?

Man: I have two sons and a daughter by my Pune wife too. Both sides BARABAR ( equal). These two sons are also married and here too my daughters-in-law are good.

Lady: But then how do you manage two families? Where do you stay?

Man: I stay most of the time in Hyderabad. I visit Pune every two or three months.

Lady: How about your wifes?

Man: Oh both cannot stand each other. But my children are very understanding. They take good care of their respective mothers. I had to visit Pune now because my wife here is unwell. She has been diagnosed with bone cancer and is bedridden. So I went to see her and took her to hospital.

Lady: But then you are returning back so quickly.

Man: No problem, my sons will take good care of their mother. I have faith in them. I will visit her again in a month or two...

Meanwhile Dhaund station arrived. This station is famous for the tasty Wada Pav ( Potato patties with bun), a desi veg burger. It is tea time. So everybody is hankering to get the Wada Pavs and Chai before the train leaves. We too did the same. And I got engrossed in relishing my Wada Pav and Chai. When I told my husband who was sitting next to me, the tales of the gentleman and his two wives and the lady's forsaken son, he looked surprised, he had not heard a word and he thought I was reading my FEMINA. I know he did not hear a word because on the opposite upper berth were two love birds (short distance travellers) cuddling and saying sweet nothings. My husband was annoyed and worried that our daughter who was sleeping on the adjacent upper berth would get up and see the romance and then ask us umpteen questions. Thankfully, they got off the train in the next station.

But what sounded interesting and amazed me was how two perfect strangers share the events of their personal lives and their inmost feelings and emotions without any inhibitions. They need not ask each other their names or addresses of their destinations, but will develop a temporary special bond, close enough to reveal each other their personal lives and events.

Well, the reason could be that there are no obligations, no judgments, no ridicule, no commitments in this relationship and you find a good listener and an empathiser who will prove not to be a threat is whatsoever way. We tend to feel safe because we may not bump into the same person again. Therefore we unburden our emotional baggages temporarily and it does give us momentary relief .


Anonymous said...

This is a good write and the observations are perfect - Sridhar Krishnamurthy

Kaustubh said...

The stories of both of your characters were very interesting; as was Bhauji's concern :) One of the funniest posts in a long time.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting !! You are right! we are all citizens of the universe and
each of us knowingly or unknowingly shares with another/many others helping
to relieve the burdens we bear.


rk said...

hi manjula,
it is really rare to find articles like this where everyday situations are presented with minute details (and refreshing thoughts).
thanks and keep posting more of such pieces.