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They chanced to sit together and spent the next hour conversing like there was no tomorrow. He had never felt the same way talking to anyone else in school or at home.
In 2019 our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month gets bigger and better (find out how here) and also takes the cue from the words of women who inspire with their poetry. The writing cue for April 2019 is these lines from Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam, considered the “feminist before all feminists” in India, from the poem I will meet you yet again (Main Tainu Phir Milangi), a translation of her original poem in Punjabi.
but the threads of memory
are woven of enduring atoms.
The second winner of our April 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Debomita Dhar.
‘But the threads of memory are woven of enduring atoms’– and no one knew this better than Satish.
Satish was feeling uneasy and the reason was much more than the time of the hour. Railway stations had always treated him such. The stone bench that he was sitting on, on that desolate platform of a nondescript station was not helping either.
If all goes well, he would reach Kanpur by noon, he thought. The train hardly stopped here for a minute, but he was certain he could make it.
The platform was devoid of any activities sans a few strays getting ready for a long night ahead. He had been away only for a few minutes to find out if there was anyone at the office who could give him an update on the train status; and he found his place at the bench occupied. In the dark, all he could gather was, a woman clutching a bag. With no other feasible alternatives, he sat next to her, albeit, with some apprehensions.
“Are you waiting for the Kalindi?”- She asked after a few minutes of uncomfortable silence
The voice seemed pleasant to him. He tried to see her clearly without making it look like a stare.
It was a woman wearing a dark coloured garment, with a small bag and something which looked like a walking stick next to her.
“Yes. And you?”
“Alone?”- Not the right time and place for a young lady to be alone, he thought to himself.
“Why? Is that a concern? “- she smirked.
“Of course not! Apologies if I sounded so. It’s just that anyone’s presence here at this time means an urgency of some sort.”
“You sound apologetic about being here as well.”
“No. I am fine. I just don’t prefer railway stations.”
“I understand. But air facilities haven’t reached the small towns and villages of India yet, Sir,” she mocked.
“I cannot afford flights anyway. It is just that I don’t fancy trains much.”
“Why don’t you take the bus instead? You would get one in the morning.”
“I need to reach Kanpur at the earliest for an official commitment. The same reason why I was here. Where are you from? Kanpur?” He wanted to change the topic.
Minutes passed by in multiples of ten. Satish was thankful for her presence and for the chit-chat, as he could take his mind off unsettling memories. He felt much better. It wouldn’t be too long now.
“Oh no! I left my suitcase at the Station Master’s room!” She sounded dismayed
“Can you please help me? I have hurt my foot and may take ages to be back,” she pleaded.
“Sure. But the train…”
“Do not worry. I will be here. Please. It is a red one. Ask the boy at the desk.”
The station master’s room was definitely not just a step away, and he certainly did not want to miss the train. But then, he couldn’t refuse either.
Satish had almost reached the cabin when he heard it. He turned back but by the time he got to the platform, the train was but a speck at the distance and there was no sign of her.
Baffled, he went back to the cabin and asked the man at the desk if there was any baggage there, of a woman.
“No, but I do have an envelope. The woman asked me to give it, if you know her name.”
That was when he realized that he did not even ask her name. He felt like a fool. But why an envelope? And why did she ask him to get her suitcase? Maybe the envelope was someone else’s. Or was it?
He sat down not knowing what to do.
But after a while, everything came back as if it was yesterday. He lay down on the floor too exhausted and numb to react –
He was in the ninth standard and was travelling to his maternal uncle’s place. He had been a studious and introverted boy, and it had taken some cajoling from his mother’s end to send him there to meet his cousins.
She was a shy girl almost of his age, travelling with her father.
They chanced to sit together and spent the next hour conversing like there was no tomorrow. He had never felt the same way talking to anyone else in school or at home. She shared her book of poetry with him, and promised to meet him again after they reached. He was engulfed in the nuances of adolescent love when he heard the commotion and felt the tremor.
What happened after that changed his life forever. Suddenly, everything collapsed around him. He remembers partly swimming and then being dragged to safety after long hours. The train had derailed and plunged into the Bagmati river, is what he would know later. He had faint memory of the aftermath of the accident. He was in the hospital for days and till date he knows nothing about the fate of Aradhana and her father.
Tears had eluded him for years but then, he had never really cried for her.
As he moved into a state between the conscious and sub conscious, he had visions of her holding on to her crutches and crying for help as the carriage went down under water.
“Wake up!”- It was the man at the desk.
Satish looked at the visibly annoyed man whose slumber had been clearly disturbed owing to reasons he could not yet comprehend.
“Are you waiting for the next train? The Kalindi met with an accident near Firozabad and this route will be closed for some time now. Better get a bus or something.”
As Satish gathered his thoughts, he felt a strange sense of contentment.
He went over to the man again and told him, “The name is Aradhana. She would have given you something for me.”
“Oh God… such a devastating accident! Here it is. Please leave now!”
Satish took the envelope. His trembling fingers refused to obey him and were hardly moving.
He read the foggy words as tears streamed down.
“I had told you- I will meet you yet again!”
Debomita Dhar wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: videoblocks
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