The Howrah Bridge…


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In continuation of the story(Pune to Howrah) https://randomwithlife.com/2020/05/04/pune-to-howrah/

26th of December, 2010

Mr. Paritosh was deboarding the train at Jamshedpur Railway Station, and I was thrilled to see the scope of an uninterrupted conversation till Howrah. Her generous smile was indicative of her being able to read my mind. Or maybe the childhood inability to suppress the devilish happiness was getting prominent with age.

I offered my assistance to him with his luggage(the demon was actually carrying hell lot of it), which he could not refuse seeing no one else to help.

“All the best my friend.” He said the moment before the train started to move and I was still at the gate.

I was taken aback. I mean what exactly he was wishing me luck for. To carry forward his failed legacies of the single-sided fascination towards a lady who was traveling alone.  I went back to my seat with an internal quest and a much lesser enthusiasm to talk to her.

There were many who deboarded at Jamshedpur leaving the compartment semi vacant. So, I chose to sit on the side lower birth rather than the usual one which made me sit face to face with her. She looked at me a little puzzled as if she wanted to read my thoughts again, but I was already in a deep state of melancholy.

Soon, I started enjoying the scenic beauty from behind the glass window. There were kids playing cricket in an open ground adjacent to the railway track in the twilight, some of them were flying kites by holding the string with one hand and their pants from another one, and running carelessly in muddy water.

“Do you mind if I sit over here?” I had no idea about when she came over there. The fragrance of her perfume was so maddening that I entirely forgot all that I was thinking and for how long I was sitting over there in the corner. I quickly wrapped up my legs to make space for her without speaking anything.

“Are you alright?” She initiated the conversation.

“Yes, I am fine. Thanks for asking!!” The soul-nourishing fragrance was making it difficult. It was like I was surfing over the waves of some musical random thoughts.

Perhaps, it was discouraging. That’s what I thought, but in contrast, she seemed to enjoy reading my thoughts.

“I am really not sure what causes the sad state of your mind but all I saw today was the impact of your dry humor. People literally got down the train without completing their journey.” And she burst out in laughter.

I too wanted to laugh but was quite unsure of those remarks. It became difficult to decide whether my attraction towards her was simply an outcome of the law of nature or was it the byproduct of a bachelor’s desperate mind who recently had a break-up? My subconscious mind was able to read those questions profusely.

I continued my conversation with her, “Are you talking about the king of cheap jokes from Jamshedpur, who made you smile with heavenly PJs? I am really sorry for your loss in case you are missing him so much.”

“Maybe I am celebrating your presence more than his absence,” She said shrugging her shoulders off.

“Oh really. Then why do we even need to talk about him?” I guess my question was valid.

“Come on. At times you need to encourage boys for their efforts and he was doing quite okay to impress me. But your witty response against the stereotyping of your native state was the real show-stealer and I secretly gave you eight marks out of ten,” She said with her tight-lipped smile.

“Oh, I am so overwhelmed. I know it may sound insane but I did not get the chance to ask your name. And what you do for living apart from commemorating boys who show interest in you?”

“No, it’s my bad that I forgot to mention. My name is Patricia and I am a Criminal lawyer by profession at Pune district court. Precisely, I worked as a public prosecutor at Bombay high court till last year but then had to settle down in Pune.” Then we shook hands but this time her expressions were different.

All that I thought about her turned out to be wrong. She was not a college-going girl and was into a tougher profession. Before I could say anything, the train entered the platform at Howrah Junction. It was 7 PM then.

“So, you must be here in Kolkata to visit your parents,” I said.

“My parents stay in Mumbai with my elder brother. I am traveling to Durgapur to attend the marriage of a colleague. I have a connecting train at 11:30 PM.” She said.

“How about you? You must be heading to Patna if I heard it correctly at that time.”

“No, actually my journey will end in some 100 KMs before Patna. It’s a small town named Kiul. My father works there at an establishment of Indian Railways. I too got a connecting train at 11 PM.” I replied before putting my books and laptop back in place.

One of the co-passengers(a granny) requested me to assist her with luggage as her son was stuck in traffic. So, I decided to wait along with her at the platform until her son turned up. To my surprise, Patricia stayed there too. Soon, an elderly person came and the granny introduced him as her son. We said goodbye to her and walked towards the food court.

“I badly need a cup of coffee. Would you like to join me?”

“I am not a coffee person but can accompany you in case you change your mind to have lassi(sweetened curd) instead of coffee. I know a place near Howrah Bridge. We can keep our luggage at the cloakroom and then walk till the bridge.” She was defying all the laws that girls follow traditionally. Nonetheless, I was enjoying every surprise related to her. There are times when life serves you more than your appetite. 

We kept our luggage in the cloakroom like she mentioned and walked over the crowded street. She took to me to the famous shop of Ganguram Halwayi. That was the best lassi I ever tasted. Even today, it is difficult to forget the essence it had due to the rose petals and it was served with the creamy layer of cashew nuts, almonds, and white butter in earthen pots.

She requested the shopkeeper to parcel it as she had no desire to have it in a crowded shop. In the meantime, I bought two chicken rolls from a nearby place.

After a few minutes of walk, we two were standing in the middle of the sidewalk of Howrah Bridge facing the breath-taking view of river Ganga(known as Hugli over there) having our share of lassi and chicken roll. The evening breeze was soothing and the river was shining blissfully. I had been to Kolkata before but never had the chance to be there. I wanted to thank her wholeheartedly for giving me such a beautiful evening, but she was gazing absently at the blurred distance.

“I assume you been to this place before,” I asked casually sipping my lassi.

She looked at me in a weird manner making me realize that I played the wrong notes unknowingly, but I corrected it before it was too late. I said, “You don’t need to answer that Patricia. It is actually none of my business.”

Her anguish melted away instantly seeing me apologetic. She said, “And you don’t need to contradict yourself, my friend. It doesn’t suit you. There is nothing wrong with asking the right set of questions with pure intentions.”

That was a big sign of relief else I thought it was all over.

She further continued, “Yes, a couple of years back I came to this bridge with my boyfriend. He subsequently turned out to be a spineless lawyer who could not stand for anything significant in his life. On the other hand, I certainly lagged the required level of maturity to identify his real self and went behind the deceptive outward appearance. Many boys and girls fall prey to such a facade due to inexperience and the necessity of love. I hope I am not playing the victim card.”

I had no idea how to respond to it. Being emotionally vulnerable can be very challenging and I too had my lessons in a hard way. But seeing a lawyer repenting a sin like love was surprising. Maybe I wrong once again. They too are humans with 10 ounces of heart and a lot of pain filled into it.

I still do not remember the source of courage that day, but then I asked her if she wanted to give me a hug. With some initial hesitation, she kept her lassi aside and embraced me tightly in her arms as if never to let me go, and cried inconsolably.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

Pune to Howrah…


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25th of December, 2010

I was falling short of my breath while running over the bridge at Pune railway station to catch up with Duronto Express stationed at Platform number 2. It was about to depart at any moment, and for the first time in my life, I was about to miss out on a train. Unlike an IT guy, I pushed everyone aside who came in between, and finally made my way to coach number A2 before the train started to crawl.

That was an inaugural journey for Pune-Kolkata Duronto express, which kick-started as a prestigious project by then Rail Minister Mamta Banerji to provide a premium alternative to passengers who traveled within the rail routes that connected the capital cities of India. The train was neatly decorated like any unfortunate groom in India. But, I was happy to see the much-needed elevation of the services in trains although it was temporary in nature.

The train had already picked up the pace and shortly the refreshment was served. All my fellow passengers were extremely delighted to receive the evening snacks, which turned out to be delicious in every possible sense.  And while I was totally engrossed with the delicacies on my plate, someone asked me politely if I wanted to have some more sweets. That was the time I first saw her.

An unprecedented beauty with a blend of kindness in every word spoken by her. She must be in her early twenties and a college-going student. My tender mind started calculating her age along with the possibilities of her having a boyfriend. She seemed to be a complete marvel created by lord Ganesha himself. A beautiful set of eyes carefully placed over the innocent face that shined like a snow-clad mountain range of the Himalayas in a broad daylight.

I was so mesmerized by her presence itself that I even forgot what she was actually talking about. Yes, it was absolutely worth running for, over the railway bridge to catch a train if one knew about her being a co-passenger. In fact, it was even worth dying for.

And before I could even answer, someone spoke in between interrupting the uncontrolled rhythmic wild imaginations of mine, “I guess I can have it”, he said. I looked for the intruder, which turned out to be a malnourished person sitting next to me. He appeared like a die-hard desperate Romeo in a constant hunt for a Juliet.

I gave a gentle smile to him without uttering a word, which might have happened subconsciously as a result of attending long hours of frequent grooming sessions at the office. Else, the ghost of a Bihari residing in me wanted to tell, “Haan toa fir tumhi kha lo saale manhoosh. Tumra baap toa kabhi laddu dekha nahi hoga ii janam me (Yes, you can have it, my ill fated-friend because even your forefathers might not have had the occasion to savor the sweets in their entire lives.) “

Sooner than later to be realized, they started conversing with each other and she was giggling over the most sub-standard jokes that can ever be ever heard, which further made it suffocating. Like an evident looser, I got up from my place and went straight to the never again to be seen a well-maintained loo, and lit a cigarette. In those days, it was my way of repenting a sin.

With mixed thoughts, I returned back and settled myself on the upper birth and started reading a novel. She too was reading a book titled PS-I Love You. Certainly, not my kind as my inclination was more towards Munshi Prem Chand kinda stories. Before I fall asleep, I heard her talking to someone angrily over the phone. Must be her boyfriend, I thought.

That night passed uninterrupted and I continued dreaming for long hours until woken up by the service guy for tea and breakfast. Mr. mal-nourished was back in the game of impressing the pretty lady, with his cheap tricks of praising every single word spoken by her even when she spoke about someone else. Not sure why, but I seemed to enjoy being jealous for the first time in my life.

I went down and sat near the window and continued reading the half-read book. They were chattering about their professions and then suddenly out of nowhere, he asked me, “So, you too work for a bank?”

“Even worst. I am a software engineer at an American MNC.”, I said suppressing my urge to kick his ass. The ghost in me was getting back in form.

“Oh, that’s great. I work at HSBC, Pune. Felt like I saw you somewhere in the head office at Kalyani Nagar.” He was not letting me get rid of him, so I decided to unleash the hell upon him.

“No, I don’t think so. I never met you or anyone like you before, at any stage of my life.” He seemed to be offended, which I surely wanted to.

She was hearing all of it silently and with clutched hairs, she looked more stunning and desirable. I avoided my level best to look at her. I had a feeling that she did not like me being rude to that guy. So, I chose my words carefully and avoided being resentful. Soon, I realized that every other boy in that compartment was passing nearby my seat to have a glimpse of her beauty.

For a precise moment, our eyes met each other and that was a breathtaking moment. I felt the tickle in my heart like a common protocol of love at the very inception of it. “Looks like you too are from Pune itself.” She spoke to me for the second time and I had no choice left other than addressing her, face to face.

“No. I actually come from Patna,” I said precisely assuming her to be a Bengali girl as they are known to have a beautiful skin, eyes, and hair.

“So, how long you had been working in Pune?” She wanted to know more about me, and I wanted that conversation to be eternal.

“It’s been nearly nine months and I am in love with it. I find it quite serene unlike any other developed city in India which are mostly chaotic.” I said cautiously.

“You need to find peace and harmony even in the midst of a cacophony of chaos,” She said with her pretty generous smile over the face.

With that one statement of her, I was able to estimate depth of her thought process. I could not believe my luck for having a beautiful girl seeking interest in knowing me. Even I wanted to know more about her, wanted to talk a lot, but then the guy sitting next to me interrupted again.

Arrey Sir, aapne toa apna naam bataya hi nahi(You did not mention your name)?”

“Maybe it is not worth sharing for.” I was literally struggling to suppress my frustration but somehow managed to smile. I cursed the soft skill trainers from the core of my heart who made me so tolerant.

“Oh, come on. Every name is worth sharing. By the way, I am Paritosh.” He shook his hands with me without my consent.

“Paritosh. Such a unique name.” I said.

“Are you making fun of me? It’s a common Bengali name.” His broad teeth with black gum made his smile horrible.

“My name is Nilesh Ranjan.” I wanted to cut short that conversation with him as much as possible, but he was not giving up and I was losing my sanity.

Dada aap toa Bihari hai. Aapko to UPSC dena chahiye. Hoye ki nahi?(Brother, how come you are in another profession. Afterall, Biharis keep chasing the dream of UPSC)” There he overstepped the line which protected him till that moment.

The outspoken ghost residing in me already took the charge of it and said, “With that kind of computation, you should actually be a lower division clerk at some Marxist, Leninist, or shitty communist party offices in Bengal.”

Everyone in that compartment burst out in laughter. He was devastated. From being a woman charmer, he found himself transformed into a snake charmer and I won the long-surviving battle against him.

She too was grinning cheerfully. The train was about to reach Jamshedpur station, which was a technical stoppage. Mr. Paritosh decided to deboard the train.

“But, you were supposed to go till Kolkata. Why are you getting down here?” She enquired.

“Actually, I belong to Jamshedpur itself. I had no idea that the train has got a stoppage here as well. So, it is better to get down here.” He said with a sad face.

To be continued in next part(The Howrah Bridge)..  https://randomwithlife.com/2020/05/09/the-howrah-bridge/