Tuesday, March 6, 2012
The Goa Express
“Hurry up, Hurry up!!” I yelled at the autowala as he zigzagged his way around the narrow streets of Nizammuddin area to get to Hazrat Nizammuddin station.
My train was scheduled to leave at 3pm, I was still 300 metres from the station and it was 2.50 now!! “Only 10 minutes to go”, I said to myself while nervously wiping the sweat of my forehead with my right hand with my eyes fixed on the digital display of my Armani watch on the left hand.
Thankfully, the autowala found some space on the road, and sped through the last 200 metres in a way that even a formula one driver like Michael Schumacher would be proud of!
I handed him over the half sweaty 100 rupee note and ran up the stairs of the station without even looking back once. If I had turned around, I would have found the autowala waving to handover the change of Rs 30 to me but then today was his lucky day.
So here I was running up the stairs of the station, jumping over alternate steps, banging my bag into strangers, pushing them away from my path, shouting at the top of my voice “get aside, get aside, move you bugger, move” to clear the way just so that I could get to the platform to board my train before the nick of time.
Wow what a run it was, I had never run so determined in my life before I think, but then I was happy, I felt like a hero, a bollywood hero, I had boarded my train , THE GOA EXPRESS !! To be honest that is how the hero catches the train in these movies, just in the nick of time and that too almost the last coach always.
I went inside the coach, stood against the wall and caught my breath, sweat was pouring down my face as if a torrential downpour was taking place over my head and then it hit me, I had boarded S10, the last sleeper coach and I had to go A2, 11 coaches away if I included the pantry. “damn it, @%$%$^$”, I punched the wall of the coach as I tried to muster the energy to carry on the next task of walking through 11 crowded coaches.
Finally after a trek more treacherous than a battlefield full of landmines I reached my destination,A2. “Yes, Yes Yes”, I pumped my fists as if I had destroyed an enemy tank in a battle. I opened the gate to my air-conditioned heaven for the next 25 hours. I saw uncles, aunties, single uncles, businessmen seated on their berths gossiping away with each other or on their mobile phones and then I saw her.
She was standing in the middle of the coach, trying to arrange the bed sheets on the side upper berth allotted to her. Clearly she was struggling with it, as everytime she tucked one side of the sheet in, the other would come out. I just stood there watching her try all permutations and combinations to fix the bed sheet and then she turned, she looked at me staring at her. Her expression was that of irritation, I mean why wouldn’t it be, here she was struggling with fixing a simple bedsheet on the berth and on top of that some random stranger was staring at her go through the struggle. Immediately, I turned and asked the uncle sitting behind me “where is seat no 45”.
“Go straight ahead, it is after 3 compartments”, he said.
To save myself from anymore glaring stares, I hurriedly moved forward towards my berth, my private sitting area, where I could sit, lie down, sit cross legged or do anything I wanted to do in public domain.
After walking 3 compartments, I found my berth, tucked by luggage underneath it and sat down and then eventually I lay down. I didn’t even realize I dozed off.
“What will you have for diner sir?” shouted the pantry vendor assigned to my berth.
“What do you want?”, I snarled back at him, rubbing my eyes which were still full of sleep.
“I need the diner order sir, it is 7 pm. Do you want veg or non-veg diner?”, he said.
“Non-veg and bring it at 9 pm”, I said and signaled him to go.
I lay down again, took a deep breath and rubbed my eyes for a few minutes. The train slowed down and came to a halt at Gwalior station and along came a family of 3, an aunty and her 2 small kids to occupy the remaining berths in the compartment. They tucked in their luggage and sat down on the berth opposite mine. The kids looked at me and I looked at them.
“Son, when will this train reach Kolhapur?” the aunty asked.
“Tomorrow evening 7pm, aunty”, I replied back politely.
They smiled and I smiled back at them. Then they looked at each other and I looked left, right and then down. I didn’t know what to do, so I peeped out of the compartment to see what the pretty girl who was struggling with the bed sheets was doing. I saw her reading a magazine, flipping through pages and then keeping it aside. Her face was in my full view now. She had the most beautiful eyes I had seen, a nose as cute as rabbit and lips to just kiss for. She looked bored and before she could catch me staring back at her, I sneaked back into my compartment. The 2 kids were now troubling each other, pulling each other’s hair, slapping each other on the face and their mom was struggling keeping them away from each other.
Sitting there, watching the fighting kids was getting on my nerves now, so I got up to go out. Before I turned to go to the door, I once again turned back to steal a look at her. She was looking straight at me, and I quickly turned and left to go and stand at the door.
I opened the door of the coach and cool wind from the vast agricultural lands came gushing in. This is one feeling to die for. The cool, clean and fresh air gushing straight into your face is so refreshing. The way it runs through your air, makes you feel like you are on a different planet altogether. After standing at the door for 15 minutes, I thought I would head back, and then came the sinking feeling again “not those little brats again”. I sat down on the steps of the train and just kept staring at the darkness outside not knowing what I was looking for in the night.
“Excuse me, can you please close the door, I need to wash my hands”, said an angel’s voice.
I turned back to see her standing near the basin, unable to wash her hands as the door was blocking her way. The wind was blowing her hair in front of her face, and it just made her look so pretty. I quickly got up and closed the door so that she could complete the task. I moved aside and she stepped to rinse her hands. She cleaned them thoroughly and I was looking at her spellbound as if I was attending a church sermon by the Pope himself.
“Can I stand at the door for sometime if you don’t mind?” she asked.
I snapped back to reality and fumbled “umm...sure, but be careful...the train is moving pretty fast”.
I opened the door for her like a trusty valet would and stepped back. She came to the side of the door and stood just a few inches behind it. I stood a few paces diagonally behind her, I was worried, I didn’t want anything unwanted to happen. She had closed her eyes, and was feeling the wind blow into her face. Her beautiful silk like hair was flowing back with the wind. She seemed to be enjoying the moment.
“Would you please sit next to me on steps? I am afraid to sit here alone” she asked.
Caught by surprise, “You want to sit here with me?” I asked.
“Yes, you seem like a nice guy, and I am not too confident of doing it alone but nevertheless I want to do it, so will you?”
“Sure”, I said. Somewhere in some world I was smiling away to glory, jumping with joy and pumping my fists in victory as if I had won the FIFA world cup.
Without showing any of that delight on my face, I sat down on the steps. She stood next to me, wanting to sit down but not being able to do it.
“Keep your foot on the step slowly, hold the railing with your one hand and slowly lower yourself to sit down”, I told her.
She followed my instructions step by step and succeeded in sitting down.
She relaxed, took a deep breath and smiled. A nice, warm and comforting smile. A smile that showed her trust in me while I guided her to sit next to me.
“Hi, I am Rajveer”, I said smilingly
“Hi, I am Simran”, she replied with similar expression.
I felt like Shahrukh Khan from DDLJ, sitting next to Simran, the only thing I didn’t have was that stupid mandolin and his charming looks of the 90’s.
“So where are you going to?” I asked
“Pune”, she replied, “and you?”
“Pune too”, I said smilingly.
She smiled too, a little blushingly though and then we both looked down at the same moment. We looked up and somehow nature had ensured we look at each other again that very moment and we did, and again we smiled, with a lot more blushing from both sides.
After a few moments, I asked her “so you are studying in Pune?”
“Yes, at AFMC, I am doing my MBBS from there”, she replied beamingly.
“That’s pretty cool, it is one of the best medical college’s in the country”, I reverted.
“Yes it is, and what about you, what do you do in Pune?” she quizzed me pleasantly.
“I am a final year cadet at NDA”, I said with my chest standing out proudly. It is a moment of great pride for me when I tell anyone of where I am studying and what I intend to do with my career after all as they say “It is a Gentleman’s life”.
“Awesome, NDA, so we both will be in the armed forces, this is so cool”, she said.
“Yes it is”, I replied back with a radiant smile that could light up the darkness outside.
The conversational spark had been ignited and the fire was now warming up. We kept talking and time just flew by. We spoke about our colleges, the discipline of the armed forces, our families, our likes, dislikes, hobbies, Pune the city, our lives etc etc. We kept on chattering for hours together and by the time we looked back at the watch, it was almost 11 in the night.
“I think I will go and sleep now, it is late”, she said.
I so didn’t want her to go, I was enjoying the time I had spent with her. How often does a cadet get to talk to a girl heart to heart for so long in the 3 years spent at NDA, probably never!
Not wanting to impose, “yes you should, it is late”, I said.
Slowly she stood up by taking support on my shoulder till she was well inside the coach and then I swiftly got up.
“Good night Raj”, she said smilingly.
“Good night Simran”, I replied with an equal joyous smile.
She slowly walked back towards the compartments. In my heart and mind I was saying to myself “turn turn turn turn turn turn turn” and then she did, turn she did, smiled, blushed and went inside.
“Yes Yes Yes” and I jumped in the air for I felt like Shahrukh khan did when Kajol turned back to look at him before boarding the train at one of those European stations in DDLJ.
Now I knew, bollywood can also inspire real life events!!
I went back to my berth and sat down. My diner was kept on my berth, cold like an iceberg now. The fighting kids were sleeping together hugging each other like cute babies. They seemed so beautiful. “God don’t wake them up till morning”, I prayed, for I wanted to sleep peacefully. I kept the diner plate under the berth and lay down.
I closed my eyes and saw Simran’s smiling face and recollected the various conversations we had, it all made me smile and before I could realize I slept off, peacefully and rather blissfully.
“Raj wake up, Raj wake up, cmon Raj wake up”, said the angel’s voice.
“Get up Raj, we have reached Pune”, the angel spoke again.
“Huh, what? What time is it now?” I questioned her while I got up and stood to attention as if I was under an inspection at my hostel.
“1pm, Raj, we have reached Pune”, she said anxiously.
I looked outside the window; the train was at the Pune station. We had to de-board before the train started again. I quickly gathered my stuff and we ran towards the door.
I helped her get her stuff and I quickly got down. I pulled my luggage out and kept it on the platform.
We looked at each other, she was perfectly made up, her hair was tied and her dress was arranged properly and here I was looking like a total mess with my hair going in all directions. Damn it, I hadn’t even gotten a chance to brush my teeth. If I spoke, I would have stunk heavily. So I kept quiet.
“So we have reached here on time”, she said.
“Yes on time performance”, I joked back.
“Time to go, my friends are coming to pick me up, how will you go?” , she told me.
“I will take the bus to Khadakwasla”, I said.
“ok cool, oh there they are”, she waved at her friends. They were a few paces away.
I wanted to ask her number but I couldn’t muster the courage. I had never done that before, give me a rifle to fire and I would never hesitate but asking for her number, I was frozen like an orange candy fresh out of the freezer.
“Great, so have a good time”, I said to her, trying hard to hide my desire to ask her for the number but not being able to do so.
“Yes, sure you too”, she said, lifting her bag.
She slowly started to walk towards her friends.
“Will you have coffee with me next Sunday?” I blared out, all of a sudden, not knowing whether I would get slapped next or what.
She stopped in her tracks, slowly turned back and smilingly said “Yes, for a moment I thought you would never ask”.
“Here is my number, give me a call on Saturday and let us fix up the time for Sunday”, she handed me a piece of paper with her number.
“Thanks, I will do that”, I said to her glowing like the sun at noon.
“See you soon then, bye”, she said and walked off towards her friends.
I was smiling to myself; I picked up my bag and started to walk towards the station exit. The engine of the train blew and I stopped, turned back and looked at the train, high fived the train, my lucky train, The Goa Express.