I twisted my body for the tenth time on my berth. The watch flashed 10:00 PM. In an attempt to discover the cause behind my discomfort and sleeplessness I looked around the coach I was in. The entire coach was flooded with darkness and it seemed nobody stirred but me. All were fast asleep. Now, returning back to my berth, I almost found the reason. The guy on the opposite berth across from mine was lying on his berth but was lost in a newspaper. I turned towards the light which was powered on and now pricking me directly in the eyes instantly after my realizations.
He caught me looking at himself and removed the newspaper from between of us as it was blocking his view of me. He said, “You may let me know if the light troubles you”, followed by a grin.
“I will manage”, I replied with measured words. He smiled and said, “If you feel sleepy don’t hesitate to nudge me and ask for it”. I pinned him down with my glare and covered myself with the blanket.
Morning. The watch flashed 7:00 AM. I was wide awake, now seated comfortably on my berth and presently even the man on the opposite berth looks awake. In fact, he seems ready to clarify last night’s misunderstandings.
“You turned quiet red last night?” was his opening line. My mouth went open in amazement and after two seconds was shut tight. Speechless! What was I to fathom of ‘turning red’? He continued, “Dekhiye Reemaji….”
SHOCKING! He called me by my name! For once I couldn’t believe a fellow passenger could know my name and without second thought I put in,
“How do you know?”
“Arey wohh! Dekhiye Reemaji aisa hai ki hum aate jaate apni aankh aur kaan khuli rakhte hain. Bahar list mein humne apka naam aur umra malum kiya tha”.
I was too baffled to speak. He went on, “This helps in building relation with our co-passengers”.
Build realtion? In my journey from Delhi to Bombay? I couldn’t make out the head or tail of the conversation that this man was trying to make.
“Aur Reemaji, It really doesn’t matter whether the lights are on or off if you are actually sleepy. Am being utterly honest. You couldn’t get sleep and so you blame the lights which is not fair”.
I was looking at him. A very calm and composed look. But deep within I wanted to shout! I tried not to look at him to discontinue the talk but he would find some or the other way of making eye contact with me. Try how hard I would this chap would not allow me retain my cool self and very soon I may have to get rude with him so that I could ward off his uselessness.
He was telling me about his nightmarish flight due to which he had resorted to travelling by trains and how he doesn’t get sleep in train journeys ever. He hailed from Delhi but was working in Mumbai since past few years. Then he comes to the topic of his marriage about which he was least bothered but wanted me to listen. I hesitated but he insisted.
He was called to Delhi by his parents so that he would be able to meet and like the girl his parents had chosen for him. So accordingly, on the appointed day, he and his parents set off to see the bride to be. It happened so that there was an unpleasant surprise awaiting them. They were in for a shock when the girl appeared and announced that she already was married secretly with another man!
OMIGOSH! I wondered what was I doing? Listening to personal elegies of strangers in the train? I finally had to break my silence.
“Call me Ripuhan”.
“Yes, I am sorry I have a headache. Could you please excuse me?”
“You should take a medicine. Wait take this I have a Disprin”. He extended the tablet towards me.
“Ohh no! I don’t accept things from strangers. Thank you..”
“Stranger?? C’mon Reema just now I told you I am Ripuhan”.