Travel during a pandemic, Indian Railways 3rd AC, an empty compartment – the train leisurely late by 15 minutes.
The TC stands with a chart. I say my name. He asks for no identification and moves on.
I place my travel bag lined with alcohol and cashew to the brim under the seat. If my bag had been checked then, not a TC in the world would believe I’m a teetotaller.
Chah, chai chai — our seat no/ is what?
– I’ll be back soon.
Couples, chai and conversations cross by as I turn on laptop, click a pic, connect wifi, wear comfy slippers while I rue about the missed chance to order tea, wonder if she still think of me, question should I give up work.
Then the train moved ahead.
I’ll be back soon — train is empty, really.
I ignored the Marwari’s conversation snippets, like I ignored the palm trees, the glorious greens, the stops in between. I read, typed, surfed and worked even as it rained new designs on the glass pane. It never got too cold nor did it get too warm.
When I had taken this same train to Goa, my trip was to last 20 days. Three months later, I was returning, a changed man, a swagger curled on my lips , my waist had expanded some, more so within me were a hundred ideas waiting to burst through.
The summer had given way to the rains.
Veg or non-veg?
Your options are…
The train zoomed ahead. I ordered dinner as a storm brewed outside.by Soni Abraham
Story credits – Soni A A.