*Sakshi, 27, works with the Met department in Delhi.
Easier said than done
I hadn’t been home for Diwali for two years now. So, I promised myself at the beginning of this year that whatever happens, I will be home for Diwali. Well, easier said than done!
Railway tickets to Lucknow are always a challenge but around Holi and Diwali they are an Olympic-level contest! I completely missed the day the bookings opened. By the time I started looking, everything had been swept clean. The prices for flight tickets too skyrocketed!
Just three days before Diwali, I got a RAC (reservation against cancellation) ticket, which meant I could board the train but had to share my seat with someone.
On the day of my travel, as I entered the station, it seemed like almost everyone was going home for Diwali. There was no place to stand. Thankfully, I had a ticket in an air conditioned compartment but completely forgot that I would have to share the seat.
Make some space
My seat partner was hmm... well... first, he was big for the share of seat he was to occupy. An unshaven face made him look aggressive. I immediately remembered all the horrid stories about sharing seats in trains with weird males!
I put my bag below the seat and somehow ended up moving his bag a bit. He got annoyed and said, ‘Madam, why are you touching my bag, don’t move it. I was here first and I would appreciate it if you didn’t move it around’.
To be honest he was polite but I got worked up. ‘We are all going home for Diwali and you will just need to make some space’. I shot back at him.
Before things could get worse, an elderly aunty intervened and kept the peace. The train began moving and the TT came. I asked him if I could get another seat but I was to have no such luck.
Not so bad afterall
The train was jam packed. I tried spreading myself as much as possible on the seat. The big guy was literally at the edge of his seat.
I began to doze off when he spoke softly, ‘The bag had food in it so I overreacted but please make some space, as it is a long journey.` His soft words made me feel really bad. Though he didn’t say sorry, but he was apologizing and I hadn’t been nice either.
I kept quiet but made some space for him. I also revised my first impression of him. He wasn’t that bad! Suddenly a lot of people came into our compartment. Two men stood in front of my seat.
As the train moved, one man kept his bedding down and sat down on it while the other kept standing next to me. Every now and then, he would brush his body against my shoulder or hand. I wanted to say something but I wasn’t very sure. Was he deliberately doing this or was it the moving train?
TT ko bulayein?
After a while, the man bent down and his bum was literally in my face. The big man then spoke up, ‘Bhaisahab, kya kar rahe hain! Ladies baithe hain thoda toh kayade mein rahiye!’ (Ladies are sitting, so please behave yourselves).
The man then rose up and asked. ‘Humne kya galat kiya hain! (what wrong did I do)’.
He then pretended as if nothing had happened but my seat partner, who was adamant, said, ‘Aapko pata hai aapne kya kia hai aur agar aapko dhang se jaana hai toh theek nahi toh TT ko bulayein’ (you know what you did, if you want to continue the journey in a proper manner then it’s fine, else I will call the TT).
I think the man thought that we were a couple. He grumbled, complained loudly about how people make a fuss but moved out of the space, towards the gate.
My seat partner then closed his eyes and acted as if was asleep, despite the looks people were giving him. The aunty, who sat on the other seat and had tried to sort us out earlier, too smiled. I was relieved and grateful but embarrassed.
Judging a book by its cover
I didn’t know how to thank him without attracting more attention. So after spending about an hour mulling over this, I wrote 'thank you' on a small piece of paper, hoping he would read it.
We didn’t speak again during the journey and I am not even sure if he got off at Lucknow or not.
That journey was eventful and it made me realize that I was also guilty of judging a book by its cover. Not all men are weird. That one act of kindness by a stranger has kicked off my Diwali with a positive start.
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model and names have been changed.