Tumbles

She looked harrowed, barely making it in time. The engine had just begun hauling the train out of the platform when she jumped in.

She had her phone taken off her person in the local train while on her way. Taken off was a glorified version of events really. The phone had laid unattended, balanced on her stomach, while she slept. Neither knew what lay in store for them. Before she realised it, the phone was going off into the distance, the heels of a nimble-footed man helping it along while she groggily roused herself, her slumber disturbed.

This was her context when she clambered in. Her story tumbled in a mass of words. Little did i know i would also take a tumble later, much like her words. Happily, fate would conspire with choices. She would join in.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

A drab lecture hall that urgently needed coats of plaster and paint was the scene for one of the most pointless selection meets for a conference to be held in a city 1400kms away. At the end, everyone was invited. As i said, pointless.

She yawned like a cat before passing out on the chair while we droned on about Partition Literature. She made for a funny sight, head tilted to her right, her tongue peeking out from under her limp head. A steady stream of drool completed the scene.

Weeks later, it was not difficult to understand how the man had been able to take the phone. To call him a thief would be to glorify his non-effort.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

“Adrak ki chaai,” the man outside the window bellowed in and gave it everything. My, sleep, which vanished, attested to that. That’s the pain of sleeping on the middle berth in a three-tiered compartment. Even with the windows shut, the head was primed for a blast of sound from anyone who wished to let my prone body have it. The man selling chai leit rip and ripped my sleep to shreds.

The scene on the lower berth was altogether different. The cold of central and north India had left her shivering. The January cold was giving it everything.

It had much to give too. Winter that year was unforgiving, unrepentant and extremely persistent. It lingered like a strong, unpleasant aftertaste long after it should have let go.

A warm blanket was what it took to get her to lay still and sleep. The thank you would come later, in a more awake state.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I swayed dangerously at the door. We had sat together in silence for the last part of the return journey. I nodded off at some point and she, in her trepidation, stayed awake, senses on full alert, to stop me from tumbling out. The train was late as we returned to Bombay. A half-hearted goodbye just did not cut it. 

Months later, a warm summer descended upon Bombay, now Mumbai. Words would again tumble out as a harrowed mind in constant torment would hesitantly ask a question. It would take a warm blanket to soothe the mind. This time, the thank you, though unnecessary, was immediate.

Neither felt harrowed any longer.

Published by appamprawns

soni writes about children and people in controlled spaces, in his quest for appam stew. homi writes in the hope of being able to buy prawns to make patiyo.

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