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/