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 with lot of pain into it.
I still do not remember the source of courage that day, but I truly 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…